Conservation of natural resources has always been an integral part of the indigenous communities majorly inhabited in forested areas of our country. They have worshipped ‘nature/prakiti’ as ‘mother/maa’. These communities have considered the different natural resources as gods and worshipped them for well being and protection from evil. Local actors are the chief users and guardians of the world’s ecosystems, and they make the vast majority of daily environmental decisions with their land use and investment choices. Over generations they have used their traditional knowledge to manage natural resources, and adapt to environmental changes (UNDP Report). This paper would discuss ‘wetlands’ and ‘sacred groves’ as the ‘natural resources’ and how indigenous communities are conserving these natural resources linking socio-religious sentiments with them in India.
In Surguja district of Chhattisgarh, which represents the Central highlands of India and presents a unique agro-ecological zone of the country, the status of wetland is equally threatened due to developmental pressures. The current paper while investigating the status survey of wetlands in the region tracks down how community based conservation has played a pivotal role in protecting wetlands which are surrounded by sacred groves. These places are worshipped by indigenous people living in the particular areas as ‘Deothan’ or ‘Gaondev/Gaondevi sthans’.
Wetlands associated with these sacred groves bear a socio-cultural as well as religious importance to the tribal communities such as Gonds, Baigas and Oraons (Kurukh people) inhabiting the region. Since time immemorial, they have protected these wetlands associated with sacred groves attaching socio-religious importance to such natural resources. The case has been highlighted while carrying out a field monitoring and survey based on National Wetland Conservation Project (NWCP). A case study of a similar wetland associated with a sacred grove in Morbhanj para of Ajabnagar village in Surajpur district of Surguja division in Chhattisgarh, India is documented as a part of the project. Highlighting the case study, our project attempts to investigate how a community chooses to survive or fail to protect natural resources. The project has been communicated to Ramsar Secretariat in Switzerland and has been included in ‘Wetland Cultural Network’; thus giving a global importance to the entire project.
Author: Joystu Dutta, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Environmental Sciences, Sarguja University, Ambikapur, India