ROLE OF TRIBAL CommunitiesIN CONSERVATION SYNOPSIS:Ø IntroductionØ Tribes in IndiaØ Tribes and theirassociation with forestsØ Role Of EthnicPeople In Conservation Of Biodiversity by magico-religious beliefsØ Plants ConservedBy TribesØ Sacred Groves ConservedBy TribesØ Conservation OfMedicinal Plants Through Local BeliefsØ Approach TowardsAnimal ConservationØ Conservation OfFloral DiversityØ CommunityConserved AreasCCA in forest conservationCCA in wetland and coastal conservationCCA in individual species protectionØ ConclusionØ References “The forest is like our mother. We know how to live bysuckling at its breast. We know the name of every tree, shrub and herb. We knowits uses.
if we are made to live in a land without forests, then all thislearning that we have cherished over the generations will become useless. Andslowly, we will forget it all.”- A BHIL TRIBE OFGUJARAT Introduction: Indiais one among the 12 megadiversity countries. It boasts itself by having 2diversity hotspots among the 25 regions around the world. These hotspots arediversity rich regions where and are highly endangered eco-region of the world.In recent days, the huge increase in population, degradation and destruction offorests, there exists a challenging herculean task to maintain the forests in asustainable manner. According to the FSI- Forest survey of India 2005, India isclassified as one of the low forest cover country and it accounts for the 23.8%of the total geographic area of the country.
A study reported by Rehmani 2012,states that there are about 0.63 million villages and nearly one third of thepopulation reside beside or in the vicinity of the forests. Hence a vast numberof people are somehow independent on the forests either directly or indirectly.At the same time, the conservation of natural resources including thebiodiversity has been a very critical as well as integral part among theindigenous communities in and around the forest areas. Tribesin India: The tribes whom we call as illiterates are popularlyknown as “guardians” of the forests and its resources. Our country has thesecond largest concentration of tribal population next to Africa.
The totalscheduled tribe in India is about 6.78 crores as per the 1991 census. This constitutesabout 8.08% of the entire population of 83.86 crores in the country.
Amongthis, around 87% of the tribes are concentrated in the central area of Indiacovering the states od Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Bihar, Maharashtra, Gujarat,Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal. 10% of the people are inNorth-Eastern states and 3% in other states. Among all the states the state ofMadhya Pradesh has the most tribes and constitute 1.54 schedule tribepopulation in the country. Tribesand their association with forests: Tribesare those people who live inside forestsand depend solely on the forests products and they are very much closely related to it. The forests are theonly means of survival and critical source of energy.
The most important partof the life of tribes are the forests and its environment. They live only onthe basic elements that is being provided by the forests. The ethnic groups andthe indigenous people live in the most hostile environment. One unique andinteresting feature of such people are, that the people live where there isrich in biodiversity. It has been observed that they somehow know hoe to livein harmony with nature. Thepeople get shelter from the forests and utilise the wild edible plants. Theyconsume flowers and fruits and are often eaten raw. The tubers, leaves andseeds are minimally cooked.
It has been observed that, the tribes havedeveloped affinity towards the forests. They do not have the slightest idea ofwhat electricity is or urbanization or anything of that sort. This is thereason that they consider every inch of the forest land as their important partin their life. They also conserve and protect the environment and the forestindirectly and directly considering that it is the duty towards the lord of humanrace.
Roleof ethnic and indigenous people in conservation of forests based onmagico-religious beliefs: Plantsare conserved in natural habitats and they are being worshipped by most tribesas home of God and Goddess. Many plants have been indirectly protected in theirnatural habitats by tribes. Thisis mainly due to the magico-religious belief that plants are the dwellingplaces for Gods and Goddess.
The cultures prevailing in the tribal groupwere recorded in different states which include Dindori, Balaghat and Mandaladistricts of Madhya Pradesh and Kawardha and Bilaspur district of Chhattisgarh.The people worship tress and flowers since they believe that Gods reside inthem.Plantsconserved by tribes: Several plants have been conserved by the ethnic andindigenous people . examples include the endangered cultivars of agriculturalcrops such as rice, maize, grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables. Some of the indigenouscultivars of rive such as Pattambi, champana, valsana are conserved by theKurichiya, Pariyar, Khasi, Jatin and Garno tribes in north East region-Manipur, Meghalaya, Assam and 150 wild cultivars of rice which are conserved bySanthal, Munda,Bihor and Gond tribesof Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha,Jharkhand and Bihar. Theplants which are of great economic importance are protected greatly by thepeople. Example are Acorus calamus,stem bark of Bunchania lanzan, stemand leaves of Moringa olefira, Bombax ceiba.
These plants are used asantidotes to snake bites and scorpion bites.Table 1: List ofplants worshipped and conserved by the tribes on account of Magico-religious belief S.NO VERNACULAR NAME SCIENTIFIC NAME NAME OF GOD RESIDING IN THE PLANTS 1 Amra Mangifera indica Lord Vidhyadhana 2 Arjun Terminalia arjuna Lord Bhrama 3 Nibu Citrus medica Lord Brahaspati 4 Bel Aegle marmelos Lord Shiva 5 Nimba Azadiracta indica Serpent king 6 Tulsi Ocimum sanctum Goddess Lakshmi 7 Agasti Serbanaia grandiflora Lord Narayan 8 Kerabi Nerium indicum Lord Ganesh 9 Kamal Nelumbi nucifera Goddess Ambika 10 Madar Calotropis gigantean Lord Shiva Sacredgroves conserved by tribes: The sacred groves have been described as early as Rig- Veda and the concept is old when treeworship was so common, universal and popular. Sacred groves are generally smallareas in the forests that are not touched by humans.
They are to be conservedby the local village deities and are of special importance to people and are ofspiritual significance. Other names for sacred forests are church forests,fetish forests. They are also known as natural museums of giant tress, treasurehouse for threatened species, dispensaries of medicinal plants, regulators ofwater sheds, paradise for nature lovers and laboratory for environmentalists.In India around 10,000 to 1,50,000 sacred groves have been reported. Thehighest number has been recorded in Himachal Pradesh followed by the state ofKerala and Chhattisgarh. These groves play an important role in the ecosystemdriving some of the clean environment, flora and fauna conservation, carbonsequestration, and conservation of traditional knowledge. Oneunique practice that follows in Uttarakhand is that when a girl in the villagegets marries, the couple plants a seedling of a tree in the house of the bride.
This helps in the conservation of trees mainly in hilly regions wherelandslides and soil erosion are common. The alpine plants Saussera obvallataand Delphiniumvertitum are protected by the local people. They link the plants withthe local deity and the people do not allow any people to pluck the flowersexcept the village priest during only at the specified duration of the day.Fig 1: Sausseraobvallata Fig 2: Delphinium vertitum https://www.bluestoneperennials.com/DEML.html https://en.
wikipedia.org/wiki/Saussurea_obvallata Conservation of medicinal plantsthrough local belief: Thesacred groves are said to be the store house of medicinal and aromatic plants.Though the indigenous people are not educated, they have developed a bond withthe forests.
They have nurtured the traditional customs, rituals, ceremoniesand the way to live and depend only on the forests.. In Donagiri village of theNandadevi Biosphere reserve, Uttarakhand state, tribal people of Bhotiyacommunity have practiced a strange ritual that indirectly helps in protectingthe plants from destruction. They believe that if any stranger, other than thevillage people, uproots the medicinal plant, then it is considered as an act ofevil and that might bring misery to the people (Figure 3). Tilltoday, the medicinal herbs such as mint (Menthaarvenis), coriander (Coriandrumsativum) and fenugreek (Trigonellafoenum) are being planted as important component in the sacred groves ofthe Himalayan forest ecosystem.Fig 3: The Bhotiya community from Uttarakhand http://www.funbuzztime.com/lesser-known-tribes-from-india/ Approach towards animal conservation: Allthe animals, birds and creatures are associated with almost all Hindu Gods astheir vahanas or vehicles.
In order to maintain the ecological balance,protection of animals and other creatures along with Homo sapiens is essential. Example: Garuda (the Eagle) is alwayssymbolised with Lord Vishnu. Similarly all the deities are associated withanimals as their vahanas called as deity mounts.
Such association of animalswith Gods as vahanams is a deliberate attempt to weave mythology for theprotection and conservation of plantsand animals just to maintain an ecological balance. Example: in Rajasthan, the Bishnoicommunity treats the blackbuck as their own child (Figure 4).Harming or killing them is considered as sin!. The community supports thewildlife protection act since the blackbuck is considered as friendly in someof the localities.
Fig 4: The Bishnoi community from Rajasthan takingcare of Blackbuck calf http://www.rajasthangk.net/2014/01/bishnoi-community-in-rajasthan-and-29.html Conservation of floral diversity: In the state of Uttarakhand, the tree Cedrus deodar is considered as religioustree and they are worshipped as tradition. In Madhya Pradesh, only the fallenparts of the tree will be used by the tribes and cutting this tree is entirelyprohibited. Besides this, the tulsi plant is worshipped by the women throughoutIndia and it is supposed to increase the longevity of Husband’s life.Fig 5: Tulsi plant https://www.indiamart.
com/proddetail/tulsi-plants-16101066755.html Community conserved areas: Communityconserved areas are the forests, wetlands, coastal and marine areas, grasslandsor other ecosystem and wildlife population managed and conserved by localcommunities for variety of reasons. These range from sacred forests andlandscapes protected for centuries to more recent initiatives at regenerating andprotecting forests: conservation of bird nesting or wintering sited, protectingof sea turtle nesting beaches, safeguarding ecosystems against threats andothers.Success stories of Communityconserved areas (CCA) in forest conservation (Case studies):· The Gond tribe inMendha village if Gadchiroli district, Maharashtra, initiated protection over 1800 hectares of forest over two decades ago.
In this process, the villagers have prevented a paper mill from destroyingBamboo stocks, stopped forest fires andso on. Fig 6: Gond tribes of Maharashtra https://www.shutterstock.com/search/gond · Jardhargoan village in Uttaranchal hasgenerated as well as protected 600-700 hectares of forests and createdsynergistic links between agricultural and wild biodiversity.· Villagers in Shankar Gholain Assam are protecting forests that contain highly threatened Golden Langur.· Community forestryinitiatives in several thousand villages of Odisha have regenerated or protectedtens of thousands of hectares of forests, including Dangejheri’ts forest.These areas are entirely managed by women. · Large forest areashave been conserved as forests and wildlife reserves in Nagaland by the varioustribes with over 100 villages such as Khonoma, Luzuphuhu, ChizamiSuccess stories of Communityconserved areas (CCA) in wetland and coastal conservation:· Communities inhundreds if villages across India have protected heronries (Sareli in Uttar Pradesh, Chittarangangudi inTamilnadu).
At Kokkare Var, Karntaka, villagers offer protection againsthunting. They even avoid foraging to the tamarind yield so that nesting birdsare not disturbed.· In Tamilnadu, a classical example is 700 hectareChittarangudi tank, built in 1800. It is an important location where storks,ibises and herons roost and nest. Villagers do not allow any hunting orstealing or birds eggs. They do not burst crackers and they avoidcommercial fishing so as to provide food sources to the migratory birds.· Fishermen in Mangalajodi and othervillages at the Chilka lagoon, Odisha are protecting hundreds of thousands ofwaterfowl.
A number of coastalcommunities are protecting critical coastal wildlife habitats such as mangrovesand nesting beaches in Odisha.Success stories of Community conservedareas (CCA) for individual species protection:· The greatlyendangered Black necked crane is India was once said to be restricted only toLadakh. But from 1990, the birds were extended and found in Sangti valley ofArunachal Pradesh. All these were because of the efforts took by the Buddhistcommunity called Morpa. They learnt to coexist with these birds.· In Rajasthan, thepeople of Keechan village provides shelter and food to the wintering populationof Demoiselle cranes whose numbers can go up to 10,000 duringbreeding season. · Pedullupallu village of Cuddapahdistrict in Andhra Pradesh protects storks, ibises and cormorants.
Villagers takecare of the birds as if it were their own children. They feed the injured andfallen chicks.Conclusion: From all these case studies, there is one thing thatare clearly evident. Many ancient trees that are surviving till today arebecause of sacred belief and worship. The indigenous and very small communitypeople have helped to conserve biodiversity. Although there are many protectionacts, the tribes and villagers residing inside the forest play a major role inconservation and they have a special bond with nature and this makes them totake the sole responsibility to conserve forests and wildlife. References:1. Rajiv andVirendra.
, The role of ethnic and indigenous people of India and their culturein conservation of biodiversity., World forestry congress.,2003., Canada.2.
Kandari, Bishit,Bhardwaj, Thakur., Conservation and management of sacred groves myths andbelifs of tribal communities- a case study from North India., Enviromentalsystems research., 2014.3. Tribes andenvironment conservation.
, International journal of Advancements in researchand technology., Volume 3., issue 7., 2014., pg no-604. Pathak,Balasinorwala.
, Community conserved areas in India., pdf., Pune.