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Why India should enact a special law for conserving its sacred groves

  • Category
    Environment
  • Published
    11th Apr, 2022

Context

India’s sacred groves are being gradually altered due to ever-expanding human populations, pollution and removal of biomass; effective conservation is the need of the hour to maintain their functional values.

Background

What are sacred groves?

  • A sacred forest or grove comprises patches of natural vegetation – from a few trees to several acres – that are dedicated to local deities or tree spirits.
  • Sacred groves are patches of natural vegetation preserved by ancient societies on religious and cultural grounds. These patches of vegetation are rich in biodiversity and act as habitats of many endangered and threatened plant species.
  • These spaces are protected by local communities because of their religious beliefs and traditional rituals that run through several generations.
  • A sacred grove usually consists of a dense cover of vegetation including climbers, herbs, shrubs and trees, with the presence of a village deity and is mostly situated near a perennial water source.
  • Sacred groves are considered to be symbols of the primitive practice of nature worship and support nature conservation to a great extent.
  • The degree of sanctity accorded to the sacred groves varies from one area to another. In some forests, even the dry foliage and fallen fruits are not touched.
  • People believe that any kind of disturbance will offend the local deity, causing diseases, natural calamities or failure of crops.
  • For example, the Garo and the Khasi tribes of north-eastern India prohibit any human interference in the sacred groves.
  • In other places, deadwood or dried leaves may be picked up, but the live tree or its branches are never cut.
  • For example, the Gonds of central India prohibit the cutting of a tree but allow fallen parts to be used.
  • The introduction of Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Act, 2002, provides government protection to these lands.

Counting Numbers

  • It is estimated that India may have about 100,000 such groves. The names of such groves vary depending upon the region and language of our country.
  • They are called with different names in different states:
    • Sarna in Bihar
    • Dev Van in Himachal Pradesh
    • Devarakadu in Karnataka
    • Kavu in Kerala
    • Dev in Madhya Pradesh
    • Devarahati or Devarai in Maharashtra
    • Lai Umang in Maharashtra
    • Law Kyntang or Asong Khosi in Meghalaya
    • Oran in Rajasthan
    • Kovil Kadu or Sarpa Kavu in Tamil Nadu
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