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The Hand of God: Delineating Sacred Groves and their Conservation Status in India's Far East

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Saikia, Anup
Conference: Survival of the Commons: Mounting Challenges and New Realities, the Eleventh Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Bali, Indonesia
Conf. Date: June 19-23, 2006
Date: 2006
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10535/2299
Sector: Forestry
Region: Middle East & South Asia
Subject(s): IASC
sacred forests
conservation
indigenous institutions
Abstract: "Sacred groves (SGs) are small groves that vary in size from a few hectares to a few kilometers protected by local communities as being the sacred residences of local deities and sites for religio-cultural rituals, have served as valuable storehouses of biodiversity. SGs are forests that have been protected since the ages by traditional societies. In the past SGs were present in numerous parts of the world, nearly every continent, and were entities held sacred by communities with different religions and different forms of economic and social organization. Most of the world's SGs have disappeared and few remain today. However some SGs have been passed down the generations and the hills of the north eastern region of India (NER) are one instance where pristine groves relatively undisturbed by man, are found even today. SGs have well developed forest ecosystems and high degrees of species richness and a rich biodiversity in general, depending on the extent of preservation of the grove. The present study is confined to the area covered by two satellite data scenes, corresponding to a Survey of India topographical sheet of 1:50,000 scale. This is approximately 1500 sq. kilometers. Within this area in Meghalaya's East Khasi Hills district, the total area of which is 5196 square km, the focus being on the Mawphlang- Sohra area which possesses the best preserved sacred grooves in the region, easily among the better preserved grooves in India. Herein lies the rationale of choosing this area. This area also accounts for about half of the 30 odd SGs of East Khasi Hills. The other area is that of Assam's Karbi Anglong district, in which the Western part of the district, i.e. the Hmaren sub-division, where numerous un-reported SGs exist."

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