The Gagas river originates in the sacred forests of Pandokholi in Almora district, of the Kumaon Himalaya in the state of Uttarakhand. The river is largely defined through the flow of over fourteen major streams or gadheras on both banks, and flows for about 50 kms prior to merging with Ramganga (West) river. Gagas river basin is spread over 500 square kms with a population of over 120,000 in 370 villages.
The loss or lack of title to environmental assets in this river basin is viewed as an essential component of poverty, leading to the conclusion that environmental conservation is actually a necessary fundamental to poverty alleviation.
This approach has forged a coalition of interest between communities in selected gadheras of the river basin to share lessons regarding ecological restoration which leads to providing a fresh vegetal cover on degraded commons and renewal of traditional methods for soil and moisture conservation
Over the last few years, ten village nurseries located across the river basin raised close to 1.00 million mature saplings of over twenty species of native trees and shrubs. Self Help Groups have federated at the village-level as Gadhera Bachao Samities (CBOs) to plant-out and protect these saplings of forest species on degraded village commons across four gadheras and other parts of the basin. Alongside, SHG members are also motivated to plant and protect around 5,000 fruit tree saplings each year which would provide nutrition as well incomes in the near future.
By 2014, 5500 households are engaged in the above mentioned gadheras within the river basin and 124 SHGs and 42 Gadhera Bachao Samities form the bedrock for sustainable change and development. The challenge ahead is for communities to comprehensively understand and find an equitable balance between economics and ecology.
Just as previous years, participatory exercises were conducted in several villages to monitor the growth of community-managed forests. It is certainly satisfying to find shade under ‘new’ trees in such recently created forests; and, also to witness the revival of several springs and small streams within a span of seven to eight years of community-led protection and conservation of natural resources.