The Kutch Camel Breeders Association (KCBA) filed a petition in 2017 with the National Green Tribunal (NGT) alleging that mangrove forests along coastal Gujarat were being cleared in a rampant manner by the authorities in violation of the provisions of the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification of 2011. The petition says that the destruction of mangroves not only violates the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, but also deprives the indigenous Kharai camel species of its major food source, thereby affecting the livelihoods of several hundred camel breeders in the region. Breeders from Bhachau to Gandhidham, who together own about 700 camels, have alleged that food for the camels has become scarce.
Kharai camel is a unique breed of camel found only in Kutch, which can swim in seawater and survives on mangroves.
According to news reports, KCBA President Bhikhabhai Rabari claims that salt pan leaseholders have blocked the creek in the Gulf of Kutch to produce salt and, as a result, mangroves have been devoid of seawater, which is essential for their survival. He alleges that the leaseholders used to work outside the creek area earlier but they now produce salt inside the creek where dense mangroves are present.
On March 19, 2018, the NGT issued showcause notices to the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, the Gujarat Coastal Zone Management Authority and the State Forest Department. However, despite the NGTs order and cancellation of lease by the Kutch district collector, work on salt pans continues inside the creek.
On April 7, the camel breeders submitted a memorandum to the Deendayal Port Trust against salt production and leasing of salt pans. On August 1, the NGT ordered the Gujarat Pollution Control Board to reopen the tidal creek, which had been sealed off by the salt companies, so that seawater could reach the mangroves and prevent further damage.
The next hearing on the matter was scheduled for the end of September, but it is yet to take place.
About 600 kilometres away, Aliya Bet in the delta of the Narmada River would have served as a good source of food for the camels as the area has goodquality grass. But potable water is no longer available there with the building of a dam upstream.