Low hillocks with vertical rows of vegetation radiating from the top. Is this soil conservation or territory demarcation? What about the cacti hedges?
The hills are bare and brown. Flame of the forest adds spots of color. On the road side hill, there are low stone walls – are they there to prevent mudslides onto the highway?
The area now boasts of some vegetation --- palm and other trees and fields too. At one place, I spotted three hovels amidst green fields, probably the field workers. Beyond them was a hillock which was fairly green with bushes and trees and a kothi of stone that looked like that of the owner, as it had a temple close by on the top of the hillock.
Many of the hills show young trees amidst many stumps and large stones. Are these the result of the afforestation drive during the Rajiv Gandhi era?
At that time, the Dungarpur area was dotted with pits dug by the people and paid for by the government which also offered money to plant a sapling and tend it till it matured. A decade or so down the line, those trees matured and captured the rain water so that the levels in all the wells in the area rose. Plus the greening and spinoffs from the Indira Gandhi canal?
Instead of one precarious annual harvest, multiple harvests meant a cut back in migration to work in the cities of Gujarat. Those who came as household helps took more frequent holidays timed to agricultural operations (ploughing, seeding, harvesting), stayed away longer; suddenly young people, even girls were being educated. One that I know off, studied to be a nurse for which her father took a loan and which he insisted she would have to repay before he would get her married!! Now that’s real development.
But a forester from Sardinia, Cecilia whom I met in Udaipur was not very impressed. She felt that a lot more could be done to green those hills. She spoke from experience – over two decades of encouraging community participation in reforestation, creating trails for the public and fighting forest fires frequent in her part of the world. “There’s so much more that can be done to make the whole area green. We have little precipitation also in one season only and have to make do with that, just like here.”