Bhil tribes people in Madhya Pradesh’s Jhabua and Alirajpur districts have revived their age-old tradition “halma” to conserve environment.
Bhil tribes people said the water level and forest cover in the two districts are decreasing and if they do not conserve the natural resources then the next generation will suffer.
More than 85% people in the two districts are tribal; most of them are farmers and daily wage workers. Alirajpur is known for the lowest literacy rate in the country.
Until now, tribes people have planted more than 11,000 trees in 110 villages, repaired more than 250 hand pumps and dug more than three dozen big ponds in the region, under the drive.
More than 10,000 Bhil tribes people from more than 300 villages will gather at Hathipawa hill, about 1.5 km from district headquarters on March 14 and 15 to take a pledge for the cause. Tribes people will dig more than 100 contour trenches around the hill to conserve water.
The drive started in 2005, when a group of Bhil social activists decided to take up the cause, said Harsh Chauhan, one of five people who started the drive under a banner called Shivganga Abhiyan.
“Youngster told us that the biggest problem was decreasing forest cover and lack of water in their villages and since then we have started the drive,” he said.
Halma is an ancient tradition of the Bhils where tribes people gather at a place to discuss problems face by the community.
Chauhan said the drive has been going on in more than 800 villages in the two districts and more than 20,000 Bhils have planted trees to conserve environment and water.
Halma has united tribes people to conserve environment and water said Rajesh Bhavsar, an official of Madhya Pradesh tribal welfare department posted in Jhabua.
“The water level in many parts of Jhabua and Alirajpur has increased drastically due to the initiative,” he said.
In the past decade villagers have planted more than 100 trees and dug ponds to increase the water level in the village, said Mukesh Parmar, a resident of Samoi village.
Chauhan said people can learn from Bhils on how to conserve forest cover and water.
Surti Bai Ninama , a “halma” worker from Bisloi village in Jhabua district, said the aim of the drive was to make the village green.
“We were earlier suffering from lack of water but now due to the drive we have taken up many initiatives to increase the water level in the village,” said Surti Bai, who tours the district to spread the message of halma.