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Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Indian national trust for art and cultural heritage to take up conservation of sacred groves in state

Rachna Singh, TNN | May 1, 2012, 02.22AM

JAIPUR: As a part of a 'passion project', the Indian
National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) plans to take the 'sacred groves' or the 'Orans' (community forests) of Rajasthan under its umbrella.

According to the state forest department, Rajasthan has nearly 25,000 sacred groves and other sanctified ecosystems. They vary from 0.1 hectare to 500 hectares and are commonly known as 'Orans' which protect watersheds. These sacred groves are particularly significant for a state like Rajasthan which accounts for 10% of the total area of the country but has access to just 1% of its water resources.

"In the last one year, we have worked on an experimental basis to conserve community orans through our Sirohi chapter. The project has now come of age and we are going to take up preserving the sacred groves as a movement across the state. This would bode well for the state in terms of reducing global warming and aiding water conservation," said Maj. General (Retd) L K Gupta, chairman, INTACH.

Dedicated to conservation and preservation of India's natural, cultural, living, tangible and intangible heritage, INTACH is currently working towards listing and documenting the sacred groves in India. Among the several benefits of the conservation project, an increase in ground-water levels and water retention, improvement in soil quality, increased vegetation cover and reappearance of locally-extinct species are vital.

As 'Orans' are repositories of genetic diversity, often representing the only patches of primary jungle in otherwise denuded surroundings, there was a proposal to reclassify them en masse either as Biodiversity Heritage Sites (in accordance with Section 37 of the Biological Diversity Act 2002) or as Ecologically Sensitive Zones (under the Ecologically Sensitive Zone Directive 1992).

"Orans are not just troves of floral and faunal diversity, but are vital aspect of village livelihoods providing local population with water, and fuel. The inclusion of 'Orans' in either of the categories is not a viable option. The law prohibits interference by humans or livestock. For this reason, a new land revenue classification for 'Orans' is essential," suggested Aman Singh of Krishi Avam Paristhitiki Vikas Sansthan (KRAPAVIS).

As a part of the project, INTACH will work towards educating people on the significance of the sacred groves and why they should be preserved. "Besides, we will also develop expertise to get all the 'Orans' listed and documented in the state. We will get local communities to take up the conservation and preservation of these 'sacred groves' with most being around temples," said Gupta.

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