The efforts of the Kerala Forest and Wildlife Department to maintain the remaining ‘Sacred Groves’ (Kavukal) in the state are finally bearing fruit. The Central Government’s scheme, titled ‘Protection and Conservation of Sacred Groves’ is drawing beneficiaries from all parts of the state.
According to Forest Department officials in Thrissur, the Social Forestry Division has identified about 19 sacred groves. “As the process moves forward, we expect a hike in the numbers,” said T R Vijayan, Assistant Forest Conservator, Social Forestry Division, Thrissur.
He added that apart from providing financial assistance, the government also supports activities conducted to create awareness on habitat management and community involvement.
“The programme was initiated in 2009 and two sacred groves were identified for providing long-term assistance, for a period of three years. In 2010-11, six groves were provided short-term assistance, for a period of one year, and in 2011-12, three sacred groves were selected for short-term assistance,” he said.
Vijayan pointed out that the number of beneficiaries is likely to increase when the programme is extended to other districts, especially in Alappuzha.
“There are many houses in Alappuzha which maintain temples with sacred groves,” he noted.
Kollam tops the list of beneficiaries as well as applicants. During the year of its initiation, the district received about 114 applications. “As the numbers were high, we submitted a proposal to the government, seeking the diversion of financial aid from other districts, if they could not identify the stipulated number of groves, as per the scheme,” said I Siddique, Assistant Forest Conservator, Social Forestry Division, Kollam. “Last year, 15 sacred groves were identified for long-term assistance and seven of them were provided short-term assistance,” he said.
The officials feel that the scheme has proved rewarding, as it has enabled in the discovery of several sacred groves, which otherwise would have remained in oblivion. They added that the effective maintenance of the sacred groves could not have been possible, had they not received co-operation from the beneficiaries.