Mains Paper 3: Environment
Prelims level : Asiatic Lions
Mains level : Significance of grasslands to protect ecological and economic
A video showing an Asiatic lion eating grass went viral on social media
As a matter of fact, wild carnivores often eat grass when they have a
stomach upset so as to vomit undigested food, and in some cases, to
encapsulate shards in bony food.
Carnivores type animals:
Lions are carnivores, there is an umbilical link between grass and the
Grass is the starting point of all major food chains.
Wild ungulates like spotted deer, blue bulls (nilgai), sambar, wild
boars etc, which form the main prey-base of Asiatic lions, dependent on good
Their habitat comprises grasslands and open patches.
About Saurashtra region:
The Saurashtra region is interspersed with 106 reserved vidis
(grasslands) maintained by the forest department and 434 non-reserved vidis
controlled by other agencies.
They are spread over 1,810 sq km, making up 20 per cent of total
grassland cover in Gujarat.
Private vidis, gauchars (community grasing-lands controlled by village
panchayats) and government wastelands supplement these vidis.
Most of these vidis are part of the 22,000-sq km Greater Gir landscape,
the last abode of Asiatic lions.
Significance of grasslands:
For a healthy prey-base, grasslands are the key.
Lion conservation efforts are focused on habitat improvement and, by
extension, on improvement of grasslands.
Dispersal of lions from the core Gir forest was possible due to a matrix
of grasslands and open patches in the Greater Gir area. \
It is imperative, therefore, to initiate landscape-level interventions
to ensure that the lion population keeps thriving.
Since these big cats coexist with local agro-pastoralists, minimising
competition for natural resources between wildlife and local communities is
Productive grasslands can help achieve this. They can make a very good
habitat for lions while also meeting requirements of the locals.
About the Lions survey:
Lions have been dispersing out of the core Gir forest for the past 15
According to the 2015 census, out of total 523 Asiatic lions, 167 were
living outside protected forests.
That is one-third of their population.
The lions living outside protected forests have made these grasslands in
revenue areas their home.
These grasslands will be critical to lions’ further dispersal and
sustaining their robust population growth seen over the past couple of
Impact of the degradation of grasslands:
These grasslands have degraded owing to invasion of woody and shrubby
species and have turned into somewhat unproductive woodlots.
The growth of species like lantana, prosopis, van tulsi and cassia
defines their vegetation. This vegetation is unpalatable for wild ungulates
and domestic animals.
The progressive degradation of grasslands has exacerbated some of the
present problems like shortage of fodder, lack of good grazing grounds for
maldharis (a semi-nomadic pastoralist community), increase in crop
depredation by wild herbivores etc.
It can prove detrimental to animal husbandry, which, after agriculture,
is the other major occupation in Saurashtra.
As grasslands on forest fringes become unsuitable for wildlife and local
livestock, the fringe further shifts towards agricultural fields and human
It is aggravating human-wildlife conflict.
In the long run, such a scenario may sour the unique sentiment and
goodwill the local communities have for wildlife in general and lions in
Felt impact on ecological and economic activity:
Village panchayats are unable to maintain their gauchars for lack of
resources. Nor do they consider managing their gauchars and wastelands a
The continued apathy is resulting in large-scale encroachment on such
swathes and soil mining from such patches.
There aren’t many management interventions by the forest department
either in the non-reserved vidis.
The net result is that the landscape is suffering the tragedy of commons
and a vicious self-perpetuating circle of unproductiveness.
What are the efforts needed to protect?
For long-term ecological and economic security, all stakeholders need to
make a collective effort.
The forest and revenue departments and panchayats need to take up a
joint mission to restore these grasslands.
Good productive grasslands are extremely important for fodder security.
The more than 1.6 crore kg of grass collected by the forest department
from reserve vidis in 2018-19 will be available for distribution in the
event of a drought.
Grasslands are important for water security too as they serve as great
The conflict due to crop depredation and lions venturing into human
habitations can also be mitigated if grasslands are maintained and managed
Wild herbivores naturally prefer open and productive patches and thereby
keep carnivores interested in such areas.
Grassland restoration will also help in the conservation of bustards,
floricans, wolves, blackbucks and many other wild species that share a
Wildlife conservation and sustainable utilisation of grasslands are not
mutually exclusive pursuits.
Grassland restoration will not only have positive ecological effects on
long-term lion conservation.
It will also yield significant socioeconomic benefits to the locals.
Likewise lion conservation, grassland restoration can also be done with
the participation of local communities.
They can help in tending grasslands and clearing any woodlots, if
required. Part of the proceeds from wood clearing can be shared with the
The recent UN-led conference to combat desertification committed to
achieving land degradation neutrality by 2030.
At this conference, India committed to restoring at least 26 million
hectares of degraded land by 2030.
Gujarat can begin with restoration of the grasslands in Saurashtra.
Q.1) With reference to the International Criminal Court (ICC), consider
the following statements: 1. It can exercise its jurisdiction only when national courts are unwilling
or unable to investigate or prosecute such crimes.
2. The Court's official seat is in New York, but its proceedings may take place
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2
Q.1) Describe the importance of grassland restoration for balancing economic and