Challakere Grasslands | People for the Planet
Land is ancient. With time, it does wear, but yet it persists. The life land hosts is just as ancient, against time it perseveres but against humans it perishes. The drought-prone grasslands of Challakere, Karnataka are ancient and much like our kind and unlike the hard land it lives on, fragile due to the passage of time. History itself vouches for the antiquity of this land, with great rulers like the Tiger of Mysore, Tipu Sultan himself securing the land to allow cattle to graze. The grazers of this field were no common cows either, they were the royally associated Amrit Mahal. The cattle breed did not only have royal support going for it, it was drought resistant, fast, and useful in wars. This breed of royal warriors is now diminishing, its purpose defeated, and its home converted into a privilege-satisfying industrial unit.
Ancient communities become one with the ancient lands they live on. Their livelihoods are shaped by the climate of the region, their food, by the crops the region allows them to grow. But what of the people who live in a drought-prone region like Challakere? They keep practicing agriculture to a minimum and invest their time and resources into pastoralism or livestock rearing. With limited water resources, they can only afford to grow crops for their own consumption. They depend on the land they love as they would a fellow community member, to feed their animals. Animals must graze and grasslands are their perfect buffet. Fodder is too expensive, but the people of Challakere never had to invest in it, their land provided enough. Enough until it was diverted for purposes greater. Greater than the lives of their cattle and other animals like the blackbuck and the great Indian bustard. Greater than their sole source of income. Greater than the inherent importance of the land that even past rulers had recognised. What is this great purpose you ask? Well, this great purpose is the establishment of centres of nuclear enrichment, satellite application, solar ponds, and testing surveillance drones.
While these purposes do in fact seem ‘great’ and beneficial, their eminence comes crashing down when we evaluate the cost of the establishment of these centres. The cost is the loss of habitats, livelihoods, homes, and rare depositions of groundwater that are now trapped under concrete, out of the reach of people who need it the most. Brilliant causes married to environmental destruction lose their brilliance. More than 1 lakh people are expected to be affected by the diversion of Challakere grasslands. The grasslands are fragile in the hands of the humans, yet, the land they stand on persists. Humans are fragile in the hands of time, yet, their will and power persist. Power to the people, people for the planet.