Many communities in India worship forests and trees and forbid logging in sacred groves. Photo Credit: Getty Images

EnvironmentSociety India3. September 2022

These Villagers Take Nature Seriously – and It Shows!

In India, religious practices go hand in hand with conservation efforts since worshippers strongly believe in the preservation of nature and its resources – and endangered animals are benefitting from such protection.

“Villagers believe every creature has its right place,” says Annu Jalais, author and associate professor at Krea University in Andhra Pradesh. “They don’t take the environment or the resources for granted.” A spiritual thread connects worshippers to their natural surroundings as they revere unique plants, animals, rivers, and mountains as their ancestors.

So far, 80 sacred grove species have been restored thanks to the dedication of environmental organizations such as the Applied Environmental Research Foundation. Tree worship is an integrated part of Hindus’ spiritual practice as the desecration of groves would anger deities. “There is a strong belief that when [groves are] left untouched, the gods protect the communities with health and prosperity,” says Jalais.

The preservation of groves serves also to protect biodiverse habitats. A variety of tree species benefit from it, including bear’s breech, nipa palm, and mangrove apple, as well as threatened animals like the fishing cat, estuarine crocodile, common otter, monitor lizard, and Ganges River dolphin. India’s tree cover spreads across 81 million hectares, and the country wishes to increase it by 25 to 30 million hectares to properly sequester between 2.5 and 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide by 2030.


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