Common lands a rich source of livelihoods in Odisha

Bhubaneswar: Common lands are not wastelands. Common lands are sources of food, fodder, fire-wood and cash income for the poor households in most of the villages of Odisha. This was highlighted by eminent speakers from different walks of life in a session on Management of Non Forest Common lands as part of Odisha Vikash Conclave 2018.

The session was jointly organized by Foundation for Ecological Security (FES), CYSD, Pradan, Living Farms, Vasundhara as part of Odisha Vikas Conclave 2018, today in Regional Institute of Education.

The thematic session on Non Forest Commons which was held at Regional Institute of Education, Bhubaneswar saw participation of more than 100 delegates from village communities of eight districts, civil society organizations, academics and retired government officials. Researcher and academician, Prof Debal Deb stressed on protection of critical engendered species and said that the role of common lands in preserving biodiversity and supporting rural livelihoods in eastern India especially in tribal areas in vital.

Through his studies in Odisha and West Bengal, he has established that 25% of endangered species are in common lands. The study findings also establish that a large part of the food requirements of tribal households in southern Odisha are met from land recorded under commons category. Ranjan Panda, convener, Water Initiatives Odisha spoke of the common water bodies and their role in managing drought and alleviating poverty. He also spoke of the declining health of our rivers affecting traditional agricultural systems. Shri Bishwar Nayak, ex-Secretary, Board of Revenue highlighted the legal provisions relating to various categories of common lands.

Various categories of common land reserved for common uses like gochar, sarbasadharan and gramya jungle need to be protected for the common good of the village population, he added. He further added that as per the various revenue provisions about 20 per cent of the land of a village area is to be kept as common lands. Swapnasri Sarangi, Area Team Leader, FES highlighted the importance of Commons in food security, fire wood, conservation of water, agriculture, livestock and energy.  She added that Foundation of Ecological Security (FES) through its engagement with village communities works towards rejuvenating common lands through village level institutions.

She also highlighted the need for an integrated Policy on Commons in Odisha in the lines of Rajasthan. Ms Soma Parthasarathy, Researcher and Policy Analyst Chaired the session and highlighted the role of women in different parts of the country ranging from Uttarakhand in the Himalayas to arid lands of Rajasthan to tribal heartland of Odisha in preserving and managing common lands. Less common means more stress for women and poor, she said.Some of the major recommendations that emerged from the session on Community Governance of Commons in Odisha Vikash Conclave for policy action and implementation were:

• Supreme Court’s order on protection and preservation of common lands needs to be implemented in Odisha.

• High Court order on common surface water bodies especially ponds across the state needs to be implemented in true spirit.

• Gram Sabha consent for diversion of common lands should be made mandatory.

• Immediate action should be initiated for an integrated Policy on in the state.The session was jointly organized by Foundation for Ecological Security (FES), CYSD, Pradan, Living Farms, Vasundhara as part of Odisha Vikas Conclave 2018.