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On the Verge of Disappearing? Common Grazing Lands and Bathans in Nalbari, India

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Bhagawati, Dinamani
Conference: Governing Shared Resources: Connecting Local Experience to Global Challenges, the Twelfth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Commons
Location: Cheltenham, England
Conf. Date: July 14-18, 2008
Date: 2008
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/1656
Sector: Social Organization
Region: Middle East & South Asia
Subject(s): grazing
rural affairs
Abstract: "Grazing lands have declined rapidly in Nalbari district in Assam, India. A little over a decade ago, there existed some 11000 hectares of pasture and grazing land and transhumance was a common practice that has of late come under threat. A bathan is a temporary camp where buffaloes are grazed during different seasons, alternating between highlands and wetland in a system akin to transhumance. During summer when wetlands were flooded with water, these bathans are transferred to highland. In winter, when the wetlands gradually dried, the bathans are shifted to lowlands and wetland areas. Of late there has been a decline in the extent of common grazing areas and bathans which has adversely affected rural livelihood opportunities. Migration of people from neighbouring countries led to rising population densities which jumped from 342 per square kilometer in 1971 to 562 in 2001 and grazing lands slowly became a casualty. Except in some small patches in the northern part of Nalbari, grazing lands are on the verge of disappearing, having recorded a decrease of 34.70 per cent during 1993-94 and 2004-05. This adversely affected cattle grazing and impacted the local employment and the rural economy. "Migration of people has created pressures such as scarcity of grazing lands, wetlands for transhumance when graziers return migrate from the highlands. The decline of these eco-cultural features has led to the loss of an aesthetic resource as well as setting in motion the start of a process whereby commons are being legalized as private property, in Nalbari and elsewhere in the larger context of the province of Assam. Lack of awareness among the local people and poor structures of governance enable illegal settlers to encroach on the commons. The paper highlights ways in which greater protection of such fragile commons can be fruitfully adopted."

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