THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Forest Department and the state in general will have comprehensive data on the sacred groves and the rare species they nurture once a study by the Institution of Foresters is completed. The Institution of Foresters Kerala (IFK), a non-profit organisation started in 1987 and having only trained foresters, both serving and retired, as members launched the study in November 2012 and has completed the work in Thiruvananthapuram district.
Along with the study, IFK is also preparing maps of the groves using global positioning system (GPS). Another unique feature of the study is assigning of an ID number to each sacred grove.
“Such a study was not done anywhere in the country. An earlier study in Thiruvananthapuram could find out only 49 sacred groves in the district. The nature of the present study could well be understood from the difference in the data. The study is now going on in Kollam and Thrissur which we expect to complete soon, following which, it would be launched in Alappuzha,” said M Saratchandran Nair, former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, who is the president of IFK. The study is being carried out by members of the organisation and help is sought from outside only for the identification of species.
As per the study, there are 452 sacred groves in the capital district in an area of 113 acres of land. In Neyyattinkara Taluk, there are 122 sacred groves, 101 in Thiruvananthapuram, 66 in Nedumangad and 163 in Chirayinkeezh. Among these sacred groves, with area of less than ten cents are 182, with area of 11 to 25 cents are 145, with area of 26 to 50 cents are 96, with 5 to 100 cents are 16 and those with an area more than 100 cents are 13. Among the 452 sacred groves 16 are owned by Devaswom Board, 102 by trusts, 333 by private owners and one by the government. Species common to most of the sacred groves are trees, shrubs and climbers. A noteworthy factor found in the study was that the interest among the people for protecting the sacred groves has increased. In the district alone 700 people are engaged in the protection and conservation of sacred groves.
The study was launched with the objective of identifying the main plants in each sacred grove, to make a detailed study of flora in selected sacred groves, to measure longitude and latitude, to have details like ownership and legal status, address of custodian, deity, ‘puja’ schedule, festivals, threats, myths and legends and biodiversity and to study the socio-economic and cultural aspects related to the sacred groves.