Panaji: The sacred groves of Goa, protected for centuries by the locals, have got a formal recognition in the draft Forest Policy of the state.
The new policy envisages forest department helping the local institutions in managing these sacred groves.
The groves, locally known as Devachi-Rai (God`s forest) are generally associated with local deity, and are found in the talukas of Sattari and Sanguem, on the foothills of Western Ghats. Faith in the deity helps preservation of groves.
"Goa has a rich tradition of maintaining the sacred groves, mainly because of beliefs and traditions attached with these places. These need to be documented and protected," the draft policy reads.
Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, Shashi Kumar, told that under the new policy, forest department would help the local institutions manage these spaces, which have a rich variety of medicinal plants and other trees.
The forest department would not take over them, though, he said.
Environmentalist Rajendra Kerkar said that sacred groves were "very old natural sanctuaries where not only living but also non-living beings are afforded protection through the grace of a deity or spirit, by tradition".
"Through various (religious) taboos related with them, the sacred groves have been completely or nearly completely immune from human interference," he said.
Kerkar said that often rare plant species had been found in these groves. "In the Devachi Rai of Derode, Sattari, magnificent specimens of Dhup tree (canarium strictum) are well preserved by the local community," he said.
In the places such as Keri, Karanzol and Verlem, some groves were as big as ten acres, he said.