Thiruvananthapuram | The sprawling patches of sacred groves, the rich abode of biodiversity seen in and around villages across Kerala, are on the verge of extinction due to large-scale construction following demographic changes. Known as ‘sarpakavu’ or ‘kavu’ in local parlance, sacred groves are traditional places of worship with some of them having idols of snakes and goddesses.
The increase in number of construction of new buildings in the place of ancestral homes, which used to house sacred groves in its premises, have virtually led to the destruction of this biodiversity system, a recent report by state Assembly Committee on Forest, Environment and Tourism said. The report also said indiscriminate grazing in the last few decades, uncontrolled felling of trees for firewood and changes in the pattern of worship (from nature worship to temple) have also contributed to the dwindling of groves.
Groves are home to a large number of rare flora and fauna, including those facing extinction threat. As many as 475 species of birds, 100 species of mammals, 156 species of reptiles, 91 species of amphibians, 196 species of fishes and 150 varieties of butterflies can be seen in the groves in the state, it said. The report, prepared by the Committee chaired by state Minister for Forest, Sports and Cinema Thiruvanchur Radhakrishnan, had been tabled in the ongoing Assembly session on March 10.
Though there were about 10,000 groves in the princely state of Travancore before the formation of Kerala, only over 1,200 of them remain now, it said. Coastal district Alappuzha has the highest number of groves, while high-range districts of Idukki and Wayanad have the lowest number, it said. Iringorkavu, spread over 2.5 acres in Perumbavur in Ernakulam district, is the largest grove in the state, it said.
The Kerala government spent a total of Rs 28.75 lakh for the conservation of selected 130 groves during 2013-14 from the Consortium Bank Credit (CBC) Fund, the report said. As many as Rs 28.55 lakh was spent in 2012-13 and Rs 30.39 lakh during 2011-2012 for conservation of 166 and 174 groves respectively, it said. As part of conservation initiatives with participation of younger generation, government had formed 240 biodiversity clubs in various higher secondary schools and colleges.
It was now planned to increase the number of clubs to 500 by the end of this year to achieve the target, it said. Another project to create man-made groves in various areas is also underway as part of the initiative, it added. The report recommended a collaboration of the state biodiversity board and forest department for the well execution of various initiatives for conservation of groves.
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