Tag Archives: Dahanu

The Warli tribals of Maharashtra: a progressive culture to be emulated – 1

Noting the number of visitors to the website who read Devinder Sharma’s account of a visit to the Kadar tribe in Kerala prompted a re-reading of some books and papers written by Winin Pereira, co-founder of the Centre for Holistic Studies in Bandra, Bombay.

Winin Pereira

In 1996 he recorded memories of his first stay near tribal people (adivasis) in Alonde. Over time he grew to realise the extent of their knowledge of plants, trees and farming.

He drew on this and other experiences of traditional sustainable agriculture in India collected and analysed over 25 years to write ‘Tending the Earth’.

Over time he had noticed that the Warlis’ agricultural land was in better condition than that of farmers who had practised ‘Green Revolution’-style agriculture from the 60s, using chemical pesticides and fertilizers which, over time degraded the soil.

One of Winin Pereira’s colleagues wrote about the contemporary practice of barter and included incidental information about Warli tribals, with whom he also had spent time. He wrote that they are thought to be descended from the original inhabitants of Thane in the Western Bombay suburbs. Their lands have been ‘developed’ and some now have a hard but healthier life in the Borivli National Park (below) while the tribal communities who still have some land live on the margins in the polluted Bombay suburbs.

The writer saw a hut like the one above which had the faint outlines of the traditional painting (below) on the walls carried out for celebrations and ceremonial occasions but in the 1970s. Government of India officials who were sent to document Warli art, were amazed by the drawings of Jivya Soma Mashe from Dahanu, who shows an immense understanding of the Warli culture.

A description of their content is quoted in Wikipedia: “Their drawings revolve around the traditions of their communities, the tools they use and their association with nature. Themes include community dances, the harvest as well as fields swaying with healthy crops, birds flying in the sky, group dancing around a person playing the music, dancing peacocks, women cooking or busy in their other house chores and children playing”.

The Warli forest community survives by gathering minor forest produce and selling firewood to the encroachers in the plains, then earning Rs25 for every pile of firewood they sell. Once every three months they enter into barter trade with the fishing community living 5-6kms away along the sea coast. The Warlis start with the piles on their heads at 3 am and manage to cover the distance by foot in 3 to 4 hours time. In return for every pile of wood that they sell they receive dry fish worth at least Rs75 to Rs100 in the local market from the fishing community. The benefit to both is two or three times what they would get in a monetary transaction. Exchange of dry fish for firewood takes place in the Western suburbs from Malad right into Thane district.

Dahanu taluka, 136 km from Mumbai by road, has a 66% Warli tribal population who own 33% of the agricultural land in Dahanu. When their rice growing season ends, the Warlis find employment on the chicoo farms. Two colleagues who have lived there wrote:

“We have so much to learn from the Warlis who take so little from the earth. They are the true environmentalists without even realising it”.

“We are all fighting to protect what we and Winin Pereira love so much. In the future – providing that the adivasi culture is allowed to survive – others will be able to continue his work in recording adivasi lore etc. His work and the knowledge he shares will provide an inspiration for many (as it did to me). It will be used in many ways for the Warlis, ‘selling’ to the rest of the world the idea that theirs is a progressive culture, not ‘backward’ and should not only be allowed to survive but be emulated”.

Part 2 follows.






Rainwater-harvesting recharges wells

Mumbai’s Centre for Environmental Research and Education (CERE) earlier undertook some rain-water harvesting (RWH) projects, recharging nine borewells in rural Dahanu and bringing a large urban well in Mumbai back into use.

kitayun rustom 3CERE’s co-founder, Kitayun Rustom, who was born and bred in Dahanu (picture below left), explained that the area has hundreds of unused dry borewells and for the cost of a new borewell you can recharge four old ones (approx):

“Once the rain water harvesting recharge gets going I’m sure every gram panchayat will ask for recharge instead of drilling new borewells. Water is one of the most important things in their lives and they were completely with us on this. One villager had dismantled the entire front portion of his house to make way for the JCB. They are truly appreciative of this work.”

dahanu“In due course nine borewells have been recharged all within a radius of 5kms and all within one groundwater aquifer. We will monitor these borewells during and after the monsoon and accordingly plan different RWH measures (like bunding, terracing, roof top recharge etc.) for next year”.

Malcolm Baug well3In 2006 a large urban well in Mumbai (right) was cleaned out and carefully repaired, then a recharging system was laid. An approach for this service was made by representatives of an agiary (temple) in central Mumbai but only now has a similar scheme got off the ground.

rashneh5jpgCERE’s other co-founder, Dr Rashneh Pardiwala, has now sent news that their efforts to introduce a RWH system for Saher Lane which houses Saher Agiary, Saher Bungalow and two tall residential towers have borne fruit after a year of negotiations.

Work on constructing 2 large percolation/recharge pits in Saher Lane has commenced, as per the plans submitted by CERE and Dr. Ajit Gokhale from the Eureka Forbes Institute of Environment. saher agiary RP 2A total of approximately 15 million litres of water will be harvested per monsoons season.

Persis Vatcha is spearheading the efforts and she plans to have the entire process documented as a short film to help awareness on the issue. She is connected with a number of Parsi Trusts and Charities and is keen to promote this RWH model to other Parsi properties.