The Banni grassland in Gujarat’s Kachchh district is one of the largest grasslands in the Indian subcontinent with an area of over 2500 sq.km. It is a region that is both socio-culturally unique and ecologically valuable. It has a rich and long history of migratory pastoralism dating back at least 500 years, and links with a broader geographical landscape that included Sindh and Balochistan in Pakistan, and even Afghanistan. Many factors have served to shape Banni over time, including the damming of rivers, the introduction and spread of the invasive Prosopis juliflora tree, and the continually varying composition and density of livestock that have grazed these grasslands for many centuries.

Banni’s diversity

Banni is home to great biological diversity, with over 40 grass species, 275 bird species, reptilian and mammal populations, and domesticated animals, such as the Banni buffalo, Kankrej cow, sheep, goats, horses and the mangrove dwelling Kharai camel alongside the better-known scrub-forest Kachhi camel. This diversity is linked to the range of ecological conditions that characterize the Banni, including a number of seasonal wetlands, periodically high levels of salinity owing to the nearby coast, and the aridity of the Kachchh Desert. Many of the Banni’s plant, bird, reptile, and mammal species are threatened.
The Banni is also home to 22 ethnic groups, the majority of whom are pastoralists, spread across 48 settlements in 19 Panchayats, with a population of close to 40,000 people. Their rights to graze the Banni are derived from historical rulers of the region who granted these rights in return for a grazing tax. Today around 80,000 livestock, mostly Banni buffalo and Kankrej cow, graze these grasslands and well over 100,000 litres of milk is sold every day. The region also serves as a breeding ground for the Banni buffalo and the Kankrej cow, sold in many parts of the country.

Introduction of
Prosopis juliflora

In the early 1960s, the Gujarat State Forest Department planted Prosopis juliflora in 31,550 ha (~315 sq. km) of the Banni with the stated objective of minimizing the perceived threats of salinity ingress and desertification. Over the past 50 years, this invasive species has spread to over 1500 sq. km of the landscape. This expansion is thought to have taken place at the expense of palatable and perennial grass species. Although the mechanisms of such displacement are yet to be fully understood, the spread of P. juliflora has had dramatic impacts on local livelihoods and biodiversity as well as on larger stakeholder perceptions of the Banni. The increase in P. juliflora has been accompanied by a corresponding shift in livestock holdings from a population formerly dominated by the Kankrej cow to one now dominated by the Banni buffalo, better equipped to handle the growing presence of this plant. P. juliflora is also widely used by the local community to produce charcoal which is in high demand by industries within and outside the state. P. juliflora is therefore an important driver of ecological and economic change in the landscape, although many of these relationships remain unclear.

water flows

In addition to the introduction of P. juliflora, the Banni has undergone other changes in the last 4-5 decades. In the 1960s, dams were built across the rivers draining the Banni. Although not adequately researched, this is thought to have resulted in a dramatically reduced “flushing” function performed by these rivers, and a consequent increase in salinity ingress from the neighbouring Arabian Sea. About 50% of the Banni (about 1500 km2) is now highly saline, an undocumented, but likely, factor in shaping the landscape’s biophysical characteristics.


In recent years, close to 100 sq. km of land has been enclosed by pastoralists seeking to grow fodder for their livestock, and castor and cluster beans for the market. Such enclosures are a reflection of a more sedentarized form of pastoralism, but are also responsible for changing the terms on which pastoralists access the Banni as a common property. Over the past year or so, pastoralist institutions have sought to involve the National Green Tribunal in requiring the government to remove these enclosures.

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Field station located at:
Banni Research Centre,
Hodko village, Bhuj,
Gujarat 370510
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