Chapter 9
Oryza species

9.1 Introduction

Rice is one of the world's most important crops (Vaughan and
Chang 1992). There are two species in the Oryza genus that are
cultivated: 1. Oryza sativa - the Asian rice which is grown world
wide and 2. Oryza glaberrima - the West African rice which is being
gradually replaced by the Asian rice. There are about 20 to 22 wild
species of Oryza genus (Chang 1985; Sharma 1989; Vaughan and Chang
1992) found in tropics. However, according to Richharia and
Govindaswami (1990) "the genus Oryza includes 27 species of which
25 are wild and two are cultivated viz., Oryza sativa and Oryza
glaberrima" and "of the 25 wild species, seven are found in Indian
Union." It is economically a very important crop since it is a
major source of nutrition for about three billion people (Vaughan
and Chang 1992). Therefore, much crop improvement work has been
done in rice to feed our ever increasing population. International
Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Central Rice Research Institute
(CRRI) and a number of other agricultural institutions distributed
world wide have achieved remarkable success in rice breeding. As an
undesirable outcome of it, a large number of land races or
traditional varieties have been replaced by a few successful rice
cultivars. To counter the ill-effect of such success, governments,
rice research institutions and rice breeders have taken steps to
conserve not only the cultivars but also wild relatives and related
taxa of rice.
The ex situ conservation measures have been very successful in
conserving at least cultivars and some of the non-problematic wild
rices. But there are wild rice species like Oryza rufipogon and
Oryza longistaminata which pose certain problems in ex situ
conservation. For example, most wild rice species under ex situ
conditions produce small amounts of grain and the grain also are
difficult to collect because of shattering (Chang 1976). Problems
like dropping of seeds, build up of pests and pathogens at ex situ
farms make ex situ conservation quite impractical for certain wild
rices (IBPGR/IRRI Rice Advisory Committee 1982). The same
shattering nature gives an advantage in wild state to wild rices.
Therefore, it would be easier and better to conserve certain good
populations of wild rices in situ (Vaughan and Chang 1992).
Very little work has been done in the direction of in situ
conservation of rice genetic resources by a few scientists working
on rice genetic resources, e.g., Chang (1989), Vaughan and Sitch
(1989), Chang and Vaughan (1991), and Vaughan and Chang (1992). An
excellent piece of work by Vaughan and Chang (1992) appeared just
after the start of the present study. A number of observations and
suggestions of Vaughan and Chang (1992) appear to be very logical
and worth experimenting because they are based on a long drawn
experience of these researchers working on rice and wild rice.
Vaughan (1994) has put his lifetime experience of working with wild
rices in the form of a book which is very informative for starting
any effort in conservation of wild rices. The present study looks
at the problem from ecological perspective and suggests integration
of in situ conservation of wild rices with conservation of water
birds and carefully planned ecotourism to generate revenue for a
long term in situ conservation and monitoring.
Besides cultivated rice (Oryza sativa) there are at least
following wild rice species present in our study area: 1. Oryza
rufipogon, 2. Oryza nivara and 3. Porteresia coarctata. There are
some weedy types also like Oryza sativa f. spontanea.
9.2 Results
Date of collection/observation, locality, and other
information about some of the specimens/collection sites are given
in Table 9.1. Within such a small study area (four taluks of two
districts) the wild rices are known by many local names. These
include: Nyarai, Nyarai batta, Kadu batta, Kadu hullu, Uddinakadi
batta, Uddirige, Urbu, Chungu Nyarai, and Navane. The literal
meanings of these names are mainly wild paddy, wild grass, falling
paddy, and awned paddy. A brief account of the ecological
conditions prevailing at these collection sites and perceived
threats are also given in this table. Based on this account and
general observation, the details of the ecological conditions under
which different wild and weedy rices are thriving and various
perceived threats to their populations are listed below:
9.2.1 Ecological conditions under which wild and weedy rices thrive
1. Oryza sativa f. spontanea
It is a weedy paddy which grows mostly in the eastern parts of
the Western Ghats. It is a very troublesome weed of directly sown
paddy (bettige) fields. But it is rarely seen in transplanted paddy Table 9.1
about wild and weedy rices.
|1 |2 |3 |4 |5 |6 |7 |8 |9 |10 |11
|1 |221092|Kumta-Vannalli|K |1425.25'|7424' |3.5 |FF(g)|R |pc |Future
| | | | | | | | | | |of cat
|2 |221092|Sashitlu-Kumta|K |1425.5' |7424' |3.3 |FF |F |osfs |Future
| | | | | | | | | | |of HYV
|3 |221092|Vannalli |K |1425' |7424' |3 |FF(g)|A |os |It wil
| | | | | | | | | | |cultiv
|4 |231092|Handigon |K |1423.5' |7424.5'|4 |FF |A |on/osfs|This p
| | | | | | | | | | |of the
| | | | | | | | | | |kind o
| | | | | | | | | | |becaus
|5 |231092|Handigon |K |1423.5' |7424.5'|4 |FF |A |on/osfs|It wil
| | | | | | | | | | |field.
|6 |231092|Handigon |K |1423.5' |7424.5'|4 |FF |A |on/osfs|It wil
|7 |231092|Manki |K |1426.75'|7426' |5 |FF |A |on/osfs|It is
| | | | | | | | | | |if the
| | | | | | | | | | |not ch
|8 |281092|Dhareshwar |K |1425.5' |7424' |3 |NB |F |on/osfs|It wil
| | | | | | | | | | |field.
|9 |281092|Handigon |K |1423.5' |7424.5'|4 |FF |F |on/osfs|The ow
| | | | | | | | | | |it up,
| | | | | | | | | | |or for
| | | | | | | | | | |is als
|10 |301092|Manki |K |1426.75'|7426' |5 |C |R |on/osfs|Future
| | | | | | | | | | |on con
|11 |021192|Nellur |Si| | | |FF |F |osfs |Consid
| | | | | | | | | | |well b
| | | | | | | | | | |and ot
|12 |021192|Nellur |Si| | | |FF |A |osfs |Very a
| | | | | | | | | | |no dan
| | | | | | | | | | |simila
|13 |021192|Nellur |Si| | | |FF |O |os/osfs|Accord
| | | | | | | | | | |paddy
| | | | | | | | | | |I susp
|14 |031192|Hosur |Si|1420' |7453' |595 |P |R |or |Along
| | | | | | | | | | |pond i
| | | | | | | | | | |from a
|15 |031192|Hosur |Si|1420' |7453' |595 |P |A |or |It wou
|16 |031192|Mattigar |Si|1418' |7452.5'|580 |FF |A |osfs |Consid
| | | | | | | | | | |in lar
| | | | | | | | | | |near p
|17 |031192|Mattigar |Si|1418' |7452.5'|580 |FF |A |osfs |Same a
|18 |031192|Nagarbawi |Si|1419' |7451.8'|590 |P |A |or |It wil
| | | | | | | | | | |the po
| | | | | | | | | | |paddy
| | | | | | | | | | |Extra
|19 |031192|Menasi |Si|1417' |7449' |580 |FF |A |osfs |Weed,
|20 |031192|Menasi |Si|1417' |7449' |580 |FF |A |osfs |Weed,
|21 |031192|Akkunji |Si|1418' |7453.5'|570 |P |A |or |It wil
| | | | | | | | | | |pond b
| | | | | | | | | | |perenn
|22 |031192|Kawachur |Si|1416' |7454' |580 |P |A |or |Two ki
| | | | | | | | | | |statur
| | | | | | | | | | |wild p
|23 |031192|Hasvante |Si|1414' |7454' |595 |P |A |or |It wil
| | | | | | | | | | |in flo
|24 |031192|Talguppa |Sa|1413' |7454.25|615 |P/T |A |or |Perenn
| | | | | | | | | | |of the
| | | | | | | | | | |for co
|25 |031192|Varada River |Si| | | |R |A |osfs |This w
| | | | | | | | | | |had th
| | | | | | | | | | |paddy
|26 |041192|Balikoppa |Si| | | |P |F |or |It wil
| | | | | | | | | | |is muc
| | | | | | | | | | |in flo
|27 |041192|Awarguppa |Si| | | |P |A |or |It is
| | | | | | | | | | |paddy.
|28 |041192|Kondli |Si|1421' |7454.5'|590 |P |A |or/on |It wil
| | | | | | | | | | |Whole
| | | | | | | | | | |type b
|29 |041192|Aigod |Si| | | |P/T |A |or |It wil
| | | | | | | | | | |not pe
| | | | | | | | | | |Very l
|30 |041192|Andawalli |So|1422' |7457' |570 |P |A |or |This p
| | | | | | | | | | |of pon
|31 |041192|Andawalli |So|1422' |7457' |570 |P |A |or |It wil
|32 |041192|Andawalli |So|1422' |7457' |570 |P |A |or |Most p
| | | | | | | | | | |paddy
|33 |041192|Andawalli |So|1422' |7457' |570 |T |A |or |This t
| | | | | | | | | | |to per
| | | | | | | | | | |depend
| | | | | | | | | | |consid
|34 |051192|Sirlige |Si|1421' |7456.25|575 |P |A |or |This l
| | | | | | | | | | |with p
| | | | | | | | | | |Before
| | | | | | | | | | |or wit
| | | | | | | | | | |were s
|35 |051192|Sirlige |Si|1421' |7456.25|575 |P |A |or |It wil
| | | | | | | | | | |paddy
| | | | | | | | | | |two si
|36 |051192|Kadsuru |So|1422' |75 |580 |T |A |or |There
| | | | | | | | | | |seeded
|37 |051192|Kadsuru |So|1422' |75 |580 |T |A |or/on |Same p
| | | | | | | | | | |type w
|38 |051192|Konan mane |So|1422' |7501' |560 |P |A |or |It may
| | | | | | | | | | |Though
| | | | | | | | | | |this p
| | | | | | | | | | |It was
|39 |051192|Tyavgod |So| | | |P |A |or |There
|40 |051192|Gudwi |So|1427' |7501' |550 |P |A |or/on |It is
| | | | | | | | | | |conser
| | | | | | | | | | |with i
| | | | | | | | | | |told t
| | | | | | | | | | |but we
|41 |051192|Kallambi |So|1426' |7502' |570 |P |A |or |There
|42 |051192|Hale Sorab |So|1423' |7505' |580 |P |A |or |It wil
| | | | | | | | | | |from t
|43 |051192|Hale Sorab |So|1423' |7505' |580 |P |A |or |Same a
|44 |051192|Gundasettikopp|So|1422' |7504' |595 |P |A |or |It wil
|45 |051192|Yelasi |So|1422' |7503' |580 |P |A |or/on |In pon
| | | | | | | | | | |people
| | | | | | | | | | |which
|46 |061192|Shambapur |So| | | |P |R |or |Pond i
|47 |061192|Hosakoppa |So|1423' |75 |550 |P |A |or |Near s
| | | | | | | | | | |surviv
|48 |061192|Hosakoppa |So|1423' |75 |550 |P |A |osfs |There
| | | | | | | | | | |thrown
| | | | | | | | | | |to col
| | | | | | | | | | |there
|49 |061192|Kantraji |So|1422' |7459' |555 |P |A |or |On Ban
| | | | | | | | | | |popula
| | | | | | | | | | |saw 3
| | | | | | | | | | |two ki
|50 |061192|Gudnapur |So|1433' |7459' |570 |T |A |or/on |Large
| | | | | | | | | | |conser
|51 |061093|Handigon |K |1423.5' |7424.5'|4 |FF |G |on/osfs|House
| | | | | | | | | | |Last y
|52 |061093|Dhareshwar |K |1425.5' |7424' |3 |NB |R |on/osfs|Very f
|53 |061093|Manki |K |1426.75'|7426' |5 |FF |O |on/osfs|This y
| | | | | | | | | | |wild p
| | | | | | | | | | |of the
Legends and abbreviations for columns in Table 9.1:
1 Serial number;
2 Date of collection;
3 Locality;
4 Taluk: K= Kumta, Si = Siddapur, So = Sorab, Sa = Sagar;
5 Latitude;
6 Longitude;
7 Altitude (in meters);
8 Habitat type: FF = Farmer's field, FF(g) = Farmer's field (gajni land),
P = Pond, T = Tank, NB = Near bridge, C = Channel, R = River;
9 Relative abundance: A = Abundant, R = Rare, F = Frequent, O = Occasional,
G = Gone;
10 Species: on = Oryza nivara, or = Oryza rufipogon,
osfs = Oryza sativa f. spontanea, oc = Porteresia coarctata.
11 Notes on ecological conditions and perceived threats, etc.(netti) fields.
mimics very well with cultivars which are being used for direct
sowing. The seeds of weedy paddy germinate along with seeds of sown
cultivars and in a vegetative stage it is very difficult to
differentiate them. After emergence of ears the ripening of seeds
starts from upper portion of the ear and the ripe seeds keep
falling even with slight disturbance. At that stage, a lot of
farmers are seen weeding it out (Figure 9.1). But the ripe seeds
fall during this weeding operation. Farmers dump these weeded
plants somewhere in or around their paddy fields (Figure 9.2) and
burn it later after it dries. In the mean time, mature and
partially mature seeds from these dumps also fall and disperse. If
some farmers take it to feed their cattle, again its seeds come
along with cattle dung/farmyard manure to the paddy fields and
germinate in the next season.
2. Oryza rufipogon
It is a perennial wild rice of ponds and other small to medium
tanks and waterbodies. It is very common in most of the ponds and
waterbodies in less forested upghat areas and the eastern part of
the Western Ghats (Table 9.1). It colonizes even small depressions
near paddy fields and competes well with other aquatic weeds. It
thrives well at intermediate level of disturbance but succumbs to
the pressure of high levels of disturbance, pollution and
3. Oryza nivara
It is an annual wild paddy of shallow waterbodies and lowlying

Figure 9.1 A farmer weeding out weedy paddy from his paddy field.

Figure 9.2 Dumping of weeded out weedy paddy to burn it later.

abandoned or less intensively cultivated lowlying paddy fields. Few
plants are seen as weed in adjacent paddy fields also. It is
present at some places in downghat areas (in coastal plains) as
well as in the eastern part of the Western Ghats (Table 9.1).
Sometimes it occurs sympatrically with Oryza rufipogon but it
remains confined to the shallow water only whereas Oryza rufipogon
thrives better in deep water. Both Oryza rufipogon and Oryza nivara
compete well with other aquatic weeds. Oryza rufipogon is better
competitor than Oryza nivara. At intermediate levels of disturbance
these two wild rices outcompete most of the aquatic weeds. In less
disturbed or pristine conditions, some times they lose with very
aggressive weeds like Ipomoea aquatica, Ipomoea carnea, Phragmites
karka and certain other reeds like Typha species and sedges like
Cyperus species. Other aggressive weeds which are competitors of
wild rices are Eleocharis sp., Paspalum sp., Sagittaria sp. and
Scirpus species among emergent aquatic weeds. Similarly, in highly
polluted conditions the wild rices do not survive and lose with
Eichhornia crassipes. Holm et al. (1977), Morishima et al. (1980),
Vaughan (1989), and Vaughan and Chang (1992) have also noticed such
4. Porteresia coarctata
It is wild paddy of brackish water in coastal areas. Few
plants were located in between Kumta and Vannalli.
9.2.2 Threats to populations of wild and weedy rices
1. Oryza sativa f. spontanea
Though it is really a "weedy" paddy and it is not only
thriving well but also creating problem to farmers. If farmers
change their cropping pattern to strike at its crucial stage then
they may succeed in eradicating this weedy paddy from their paddy
fields. There are indications of this process. When farmers change
to transplanted paddy, the weedy paddy does not do well there and
slowly vanishes. But the topography and ecological conditions of
the eastern parts of the Western Ghats are such that transplanted
paddy would not do well in all paddy fields. Therefore, the weedy
paddy is very difficult to be defeated in its struggle. However, it
may lose its battle if the rice breeders help farmers in arming
them with suitable varieties which would do better if transplanted
and replace sown paddy cultivars. The fear of such local extinction
of the wild and weedy taxa by replacement is very much true because
of living examples. According to IBPGR/IRRI Rice Advisory Committee
1982, the adoption of improved rice varieties has facilitated the
roguing of the wild rices in cultivators' fields in Taoyuen Hsien
of Taiwan.
2. Oryza rufipogon
Its populations are quite extensive in many small to medium
size ponds and tanks. The threat to its populations are from
drastic change in land use pattern of its habitats. There is danger
of a second wave of aquaculture (the fresh water aquaculture) which
may wipe out its populations. It comes usually at the tail end of
the waterbodies where water depth is shallow (<2-3 m). Farmers
having land adjacent to the tail end of the waterbodies encroach
that portion and try to convert it into paddy fields. The
combination of aquaculture and encroachment is very effective in
destroying the habitat of this wild paddy. In most of the
aquaculture practices the water depth is maintained more than one
meter uniformly throughout the pond with the help of steep sloping
bunds around it. But in natural/seminatural or unmanaged tanks
there is a slow gradation in depth starting from tail end and
ending toward bund side with maximum depth. Under aquaculture wild
rices are considered "weed" and are weeded out. Similarly when
these waterbodies are used for growing Trapa natans L. var.
bispinosa (Roxb.) then also wild rices are weeded out. Other threat
to Oryza rufipogon populations is from increasing/improving
capacity of the tanks by desilting without any consideration to
wild rices in them.
3. Oryza nivara
Threats to Oryza nivara are somewhat similar to that of Oryza
rufipogon. In certain lowlying paddy fields Oryza nivara comes very
aggressively because of the neglect of the farmers. If the farmers
grow more suitable varieties of lowlying wetland transplanted paddy
then Oryza nivara populations vanish.
4. Porteresia coarctata
Brackish water aquaculture (especially prawn culture) has come
in a big way in coastal areas. All gajani-lands (lowlying areas of
the coast with brackish water = tidal wetlands) are being converted
into prawn farms at an alarming rate. Therefore, Porteresia
coarctata has already lost its habitat in our study area.

9.3 General observations and threats
In reservoirs and big irrigation tanks where water level
fluctuates too much (>=2 m), the wild rices do not succeed in
colonizing. Weedy paddy Oryza sativa f. spontanea is often weeded
out and thrown in nearby ponds but it never succeeds in colonizing
there whereas Oryza rufipogon and Oryza nivara colonize very fast
if there is intermediate level of disturbance.
In downghat areas (coastal belt) where human population
density is very high and is increasing very fast because of
development, a lot of low lying areas especially along roadsides
and highways are being filled for house construction and other
purposes. Some low lying habitats away from roads and highways are
being filled up for Areca-Coconut plantation (Figure 9.3). The
coming Konkan Railway has accelerated this process. Such
developmental activities are completely destroying the habitats of
Oryza nivara, Oryza sativa f. spontanea and to some extent Oryza
rufipogon. Certain low lying areas/tanks are being converted into
aquaculture. These activities also destroy the habitats of wild
rices completely. Figure 9.4 shows such an aquaculture
(pisciculture) in eastern Uttar Pradesh where Oryza nivara has been
completely wiped out by it.
9.4 Discussion and suggested measures for in situ
conservation of wild and weedy rices
A knowledge of ecological conditions under which the wild and
weedy paddy are thriving would help in their in situ conservation

Figure 9.3 Filling of a lowlying area for Areca-coconut plantation.

Figure 9.4 A recently constructed freshwater aquaculture in eastern
Uttar Pradesh: wipe-out of Oryza nivara.

because one will have to think of maintaining those ecological
conditions as in situ conservation measure in the habitats of these
plant genetic resources. The recommendations of Vaughan and Chang
(1992) also need to be experimented because such experiments would
not only complement the ex situ conservation effort but also help
understand the evolutionary history of rice genetic resources.
The information on dates of collection/observation, locality,
local names, meaning and other such details are very necessary from
the point of view of future explorations of wild and weedy paddy.
Such details would help in advance planning and efficient
collection of greater diversity of wild and weedy paddy. For
example, in Uttara Kannada, wild and weedy paddy along with their
cultivated counterparts ripen quite early in the coastal belt as
compared to that in the eastern parts of the Western Ghats (Table
9.1). Therefore a plan of collecting rice genetic resources first
in the coastal belt and then in the upghat and eastern parts of the
Western Ghats would be better and preferable than otherwise.
Moreover, according to Vaughan (1994), Karnataka is one of the
regions for which there is a lack of information on the
distribution of wild Oryza, reflecting primarily a lack of
germplasm collecting. Therefore, such information becomes more
relevant and useful for future explorations.
1. Oryza sativa f. spontanea
At present it does not need any conservation effort as it is
not only thriving well but also creating a problem to farmers.
Therefore, the need for its in situ conservation will arise only
when farmers change their cropping pattern drastically so that it
will not be able to survive on its own. At that time one will have
to maintain the current cropping pattern and the cultivars with
which the weedy paddy is growing. To do that one will have to
provide incentive to those farmers for maintaining the weedy paddy
or evolve mechanisms to generate revenue out of the weedy paddy.
This revenue has to be not less than the opportunity cost of not
growing other cultivar(s) in that piece of land. Though at present
there does not seem to be any urgency but it would be preferable to
locate areas where weedy paddy is still thriving well and monitor
periodically. If there is fast decreasing trend in their
populations then it would be better to maintain it in certain
2. Oryza rufipogon
There are very extensive populations of Oryza rufipogon in the
eastern parts of the study area (Table 9.1 Siddapur, Sorab and
Sagar taluks). It would be better to maintain the ecological
conditions of these waterbodies favourable to the populations of
Oryza rufipogon and Oryza nivara as they are today. The threats
mentioned above should not be allowed to impinge on the populations
of these plant genetic resources.
3. Oryza nivara
Some of the Oryza nivara populations could be set aside for in
situ conservation and stopped for any other land use. Some of the
lowlying and infrequently cultivated paddy fields and shallow
waterbodies, where Oryza nivara occurs, could be purchased and
Oryza nivara populations could be monitored regularly for in situ
conservation purpose. An other approach could be, similar to Oryza
sativa f. spontanea, to pay monetary reward to owner of the land
for not putting that land to any other land use. Again, this
monetary reward has to be more than what he would get through other
land uses.
4. Porteresia coarctata
Since it has almost already vanished from our study area, it
would be better to introduce it in some of the Gajani lands which
are still under the jurisdiction of forest department or
government. Porteresia coarctata could be brought from Chilika or
Sundarbans where still it survives. It would be better to maintain
a few populations of each wild rice species in its earlier
geographic range. Such measures would give stability and insurance
against catastrophic events.
9.5 Integrating in situ conservation of wild rices with
conservation of waterbirds and encouragement of
A network of waterbodies with good populations of wild rices
and, if possible, some paddy fields with weedy paddy should be
maintained in each region where they are still surviving. For
example, one each in Karnataka, UP, Bihar, Orissa, Assam etc. would
serve the purpose of in situ conservation of wild rices. If
properly managed, they will also serve as conservation sites for
migratory and resident waterbirds. They can also be developed as
tourist spots to generate revenue for long term management and
monitoring. For example, Gudwi Pakshi Dham - a big natural pond and
a number of such others around it in Shimoga and Uttara Kannada
District of Karnataka State can be developed on this line. Since
these are very much closer to the famous tourist spots like Jog
Falls, Goa and other beaches etc., Gudwi Pakshi Dham has already
started attracting tourists. Such ventures should be planned
carefully based on experiences of managing wetlands and suggestions
of wild rice expert scientists like Vaughan and Chang. The effect
of such ecotourism on populations of wild rices and waterbirds
could be monitored regularly and critically so as to modify the
management practices and amend the rules and regulations of
ecotourism. Educational and awareness generating ecotourism could
be promoted with nominal charges at concessional rates but
reasonably higher charges for others and foreigners to generate a
sufficient amount of revenue for continuous monitoring and
management. The idea and practice of in situ conservation might not
be a glamorous subject to generate revenue on its own for its long
term monitoring and management. Therefore it would be worthwhile to
hitch the in situ conservation of wild rice with more glamorous and
revenue generating activities like bird watching and ecotourism.
Most of the wild rice populations are present in small and
medium size waterbodies and they are either under individual
ownership or collective ownership of local communities. Therefore,
they are prone to succumb to "better land uses" which may give
better economic returns than the present land use. Therefore, it
would be better to enquire whether populations of wild rices are
present in wetlands already placed under the Ramsar Convention and
some more wetland sites identified for conservation in different
states. If there are any (e.g., Bharatpur, Rajsthan) then they
should be given proper attention alongwith water birds. At other
Ramsar sites also wild rices should be introduced and tried for
long term maintenance. Since these Ramsar sites and other wetlands
identified in different states are geographically well distributed,
there are better chances that wild rices of respective areas would
do well if introduced in those wetlands. Therefore it would be
desirable to collect and introduce wild rice populations in these
Ramsar sites and other wetland sites identified in different
states. This would be a kind of security measure in the case of a
wave of fresh water aquaculture which would very likely destroy the
wild rice populations of wetlands under private and community
It is realized that some of the local people, who have been
using the wetlands as their means of a livelihood since long time,
are presumed to understand the processes and functioning of the
wetlands very well. Therefore participation of such knowledgeable
local people in the management of networks of wetlands would not
only be desirable but also necessary. Figure 9.5 shows a pond and
an adjacent own paddy field where Oryza nivara is counting it last
days. Earlier Oryza nivara population was so extensive here that
some people of Mushahar caste used to collect it and eat and/or
sell to others. Sick people of other communities used to buy it

Figure 9.5 A pond near own paddy field where Oryza nivara is
waiting its local extinction.
from Mushahars. In South India also in our study area, certain
people collect it and prepare Awalakki (A kind of preparation which
is made by soaking paddy grains in water, then roasting and
pounding while it is still hot. A similar preparation from
cultivated rice in eastern Uttar Pradesh is called Chuda). At least
at three localities (Table 9.1 Gudwi, Kullambe and Kantraji in
Sorab taluk) local people told that it is eaten. One interesting
thing is the difference in method of collecting/harvesting wild
rice between Mushahars of eastern Uttar Pradesh-northern Bihar and
their counterparts in study area (Uttara Kannada and Shimoga
district of Karnataka). In eastern Uttar Pradesh-northern Bihar
they collect it by swinging basket or winnowing pan specially
designed for it and usually attached in a stick. But in South India
the people collect it by cutting the panicles. Obviously the
technique used by Mushahars of eastern Uttar Pradesh-northern Bihar
seems to be more efficient and friendly to wild rice than their
South Indian counterparts. Now with the vanishing of the habitats
of Oryza nivara, Mushahar caste people are losing one of their
livelihood resource bases. Earlier usually Oryza nivara habitats
used to be common property resources (low lying grazing lands,
ponds) or some rich people's ponds which were left open to all
because of their generosity. A low amount of cattle grazing is
beneficial for wild rices of these ponds. Now the increasing
population, changing social conditions, improving irrigation
facilities and other developments have transformed the Oryza nivara
habitats. Mushahars are supposed to know about Oryza nivara more
than anybody else and hence they would be able to maintain its
populations in situ better. Therefore, in case of in situ
conservation programmes, if any, their expertise and experiences
should be utilized. They should be given opportunities to use their
skills/experiences in judging about how much and what kind of
intermediate level of disturbance would be beneficial for Oryza
nivara populations and monitoring its populations in long term.
Traditionally the Mushahar caste people have been living a
non-sedentary life, setting their hut somewhere outside village
either on the wastelands or in someone's garden with permission.
Now with the increasing human population, hardly any wasteland is
left. Because of increasing social (caste) tensions the landowners
are not allowing Mushahars to put their hut even temporarily.
Therefore, they are becoming homeless. Earlier they used to collect
wild paddy from all the ponds and lowlying areas of surrounding
villages. Now the habitat of wild paddy is shrinking because of
conversion of ponds into well managed fresh-water aquaculture and
lowland paddy cultivation. Though new habitats are getting created
for colonization of wild paddy yet there is uncertainty and fear of
better land uses. Therefore, Mushahars will lose one of their
support base and the wild rice will lose services of Mushahars if
wild paddy is not available in large populations.
Surveying for key ethnobiological information and local
knowledge is very easy in this case because I am also from the same
locality. Two Mushahar boys were my classmates upto fifth standard
after which they discontinued their study. Their huts used to be
(and still is) only two to three hundred metre away from our paddy
fields. Still they come to collect wild paddy near our field.
Mushahars would become more active in the conservation of the
wild paddy populations only if they feel it would offer them better
living. Following experiments may be tried: 1. Government should
give customary (if not the legal ownership) right to them to
maintain the wild paddy in its habitat and use it the way they are
doing it. 2. The only problem with wild paddy is its shattering
nature of grains. If plant breeders could help improving it just by
introducing non-shattering character then it may become a good
variety for lowland paddy. Then not only Mushahars but even other
farmers will start CULTIVATING it. This way plant breeders would
help in saving all the genes of wild paddy except the shattering
nature. (A backcross breeding programme using wild paddy as
recurrent parent and Pant-4 or some such variety as non-recurrent
(donor) might do). Oryza nivara near my paddy field seems to be
quite impressive in having good tillering capacity and ear-bearing