ROLE OF TRIBAL Communities



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Ø Introduction

Ø  Tribes in India

Ø  Tribes and their
association with forests

Ø  Role Of Ethnic
People In Conservation Of Biodiversity by magico-religious beliefs

Ø  Plants Conserved
By Tribes

Ø  Sacred Groves Conserved
By Tribes

Ø  Conservation Of
Medicinal Plants Through Local Beliefs

Ø  Approach Towards
Animal Conservation

Ø  Conservation Of
Floral Diversity

Ø  Community
Conserved Areas

CCA in forest conservation

CCA in wetland and coastal conservation

CCA in individual species protection

Ø  Conclusion

Ø  References













“The forest is like our mother. We know how to live by
suckling at its breast. We know the name of every tree, shrub and herb. We know
its uses. if we are made to live in a land without forests, then all this
learning that we have cherished over the generations will become useless. And
slowly, we will forget it all.”









is one among the 12 megadiversity countries. It boasts itself by having 2
diversity hotspots among the 25 regions around the world. These hotspots are
diversity rich regions where and are highly endangered eco-region of the world.
In recent days, the huge increase in population, degradation and destruction of
forests, there exists a challenging herculean task to maintain the forests in a
sustainable manner. According to the FSI- Forest survey of India 2005, India is
classified 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 the
population reside beside or in the vicinity of the forests. Hence a vast number
of people are somehow independent on the forests either directly or indirectly.
At the same time, the conservation of natural resources including the
biodiversity has been a very critical as well as integral part among the
indigenous communities in and around the forest areas.


in India:

          The tribes whom we call as illiterates are popularly
known as “guardians” of the forests and its resources. Our country has the
second largest concentration of tribal population next to Africa. The total
scheduled tribe in India is about 6.78 crores as per the 1991 census. This constitutes
about 8.08% of the entire population of 83.86 crores in the country. Among
this, around 87% of the tribes are concentrated in the central area of India
covering the states od Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Bihar, Maharashtra, Gujarat,
Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal. 10% of the people are in
North-Eastern states and 3% in other states. Among all the states the state of
Madhya Pradesh has the most tribes and constitute 1.54 schedule tribe
population in the country.

and their association with forests:

are  those people who live inside forests
and depend solely on the forests products and they are very much  closely related to it. The forests are the
only means of survival and critical source of energy. The most important part
of the life of tribes are the forests and its environment. They live only on
the basic elements that is being provided by the forests. The ethnic groups and
the indigenous people live in the most hostile environment. One unique and
interesting feature of such people are, that the people live where there is
rich in biodiversity. It has been observed that they somehow know hoe to live
in harmony with nature.

people get shelter from the forests and utilise the wild edible plants. They
consume flowers and fruits and are often eaten raw. The tubers, leaves and
seeds are minimally cooked. It has been observed that, the tribes have
developed affinity towards the forests. They do not have the slightest idea of
what electricity is or urbanization or anything of that sort. This is the
reason that they consider every inch of the forest land as their important part
in their life. They also conserve and protect the environment and the forest
indirectly and directly considering that it is the duty towards the lord of human


of ethnic and indigenous people in conservation of forests based on
magico-religious beliefs:

are conserved in natural habitats and they are being worshipped by most tribes
as home of God and Goddess. Many plants have been indirectly protected in their
natural habitats by tribes. This
is mainly due to the magico-religious belief that plants are the dwelling
places for Gods and Goddess. The cultures prevailing in the tribal group
were recorded in different states which include Dindori, Balaghat and Mandala
districts of Madhya Pradesh and Kawardha and Bilaspur district of Chhattisgarh.
The people worship tress and flowers since they believe that Gods reside in

conserved by tribes:

          Several plants have been conserved by the ethnic and
indigenous people . examples include the endangered cultivars of agricultural
crops such as rice, maize, grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables. Some of the indigenous
cultivars of rive such as Pattambi, champana, valsana are conserved by the
Kurichiya, Pariyar, Khasi, Jatin and Garno tribes in north East region-
Manipur, Meghalaya, Assam and 150 wild cultivars of rice which are conserved by
Santhal, Munda,Bihor and Gond  tribes
of  Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha,
Jharkhand and Bihar.

plants which are of great economic importance are protected greatly by the
people. Example are Acorus calamus,
stem bark of Bunchania lanzan, stem
and leaves of Moringa olefira, Bombax ceiba. These plants are used as
antidotes to snake bites and scorpion bites.

Table 1: List of
plants worshipped and conserved by the tribes on account of Magico-religious belief








Mangifera indica

Lord Vidhyadhana



Terminalia arjuna

Lord Bhrama



Citrus medica

Lord Brahaspati



Aegle marmelos

Lord Shiva



Azadiracta indica

Serpent king



Ocimum sanctum

Goddess Lakshmi



Serbanaia grandiflora

Lord Narayan



Nerium indicum

Lord Ganesh



Nelumbi nucifera

Goddess Ambika



Calotropis gigantean

Lord Shiva


groves conserved by tribes:

          The sacred groves have been described as early as  Rig- Veda and the concept is old when tree
worship was so common, universal and popular. Sacred groves are generally small
areas in the forests that are not touched by humans. They are to be conserved
by the local village deities and are of special importance to people and are of
spiritual significance. Other names for sacred forests are church forests,
fetish forests. They are also known as natural museums of giant tress, treasure
house for threatened species, dispensaries of medicinal plants, regulators of
water sheds, paradise for nature lovers and laboratory for environmentalists.
In India around 10,000 to 1,50,000 sacred groves have been reported. The
highest number has been recorded in Himachal Pradesh followed by the state of
Kerala and Chhattisgarh. These groves play an important role in the ecosystem
driving some of the clean environment, flora and fauna conservation, carbon
sequestration, and conservation of traditional knowledge.

unique practice that follows in Uttarakhand is that when a girl in the village
gets 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 where
landslides and soil erosion are common. The alpine plants Saussera obvallata
and Delphinium
vertitum are protected by the local people. They link the plants with
the local deity and the people do not allow any people to pluck the flowers
except the village priest during only at the specified duration of the day.

Fig 1: Saussera
obvallata                                                   Fig 2:   Delphinium vertitum




Conservation of medicinal plants
through local belief:

sacred 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 with
the forests. They have nurtured the traditional customs, rituals, ceremonies
and the way to live and depend only on the forests.. In Donagiri village of the
Nandadevi Biosphere reserve, Uttarakhand state, tribal people of Bhotiya
community have practiced a strange ritual that indirectly helps in protecting
the plants from destruction. They believe that if any stranger, other than the
village people, uproots the medicinal plant, then it is considered as an act of
evil and that might bring misery to the people (Figure 3). Till
today, the medicinal herbs such as mint (Mentha
arvenis), coriander (Coriandrum
sativum) and fenugreek (Trigonella
foenum) are being planted as important component in the sacred groves of
the Himalayan forest ecosystem.

Fig 3: The Bhotiya community from Uttarakhand

Lesser Known Tribes From India



Approach towards animal conservation:

the animals, birds and creatures are associated with almost all Hindu Gods as
their 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 always
symbolised with Lord Vishnu. Similarly all the deities are associated with
animals as their vahanas called as deity mounts. Such association of animals
with Gods as vahanams is a deliberate attempt to weave mythology for the
protection and conservation of  plants
and animals just to maintain an ecological balance. Example: in Rajasthan, the Bishnoi
community treats the blackbuck as their own child (Figure 4).
Harming or killing them is considered as sin!. The community supports the
wildlife protection act since the blackbuck is considered as friendly in some
of the localities.

Fig 4: The Bishnoi community from Rajasthan taking
care of Blackbuck calf




Conservation of floral diversity:

          In the state of Uttarakhand, the tree Cedrus deodar is considered as religious
tree and they are worshipped as tradition. In Madhya Pradesh, only the fallen
parts of the tree will be used by the tribes and cutting this tree is entirely
prohibited. Besides this, the tulsi plant is worshipped by the women throughout
India and it is supposed to increase the longevity of Husband’s life.

Fig 5: Tulsi plant

Community conserved areas:

conserved areas are the forests, wetlands, coastal and marine areas, grasslands
or other ecosystem and wildlife population managed and conserved by local
communities for variety of reasons. These range from sacred forests and
landscapes protected for centuries to more recent initiatives at regenerating and
protecting forests: conservation of bird nesting or wintering sited, protecting
of sea turtle nesting beaches, safeguarding ecosystems against threats and

Success stories of Community
conserved areas (CCA) in forest conservation (Case studies):

The Gond tribe in
Mendha 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 destroying
Bamboo stocks, stopped forest fires and
so on.




Fig 6: Gond tribes of Maharashtra


Jardhargoan village in Uttaranchal has
generated as well as protected 600-700 hectares of forests and created
synergistic links between agricultural and wild biodiversity.

Villagers in Shankar Ghola
in Assam are protecting forests that contain highly threatened Golden Langur.

Community forestry
initiatives in several thousand villages of Odisha have regenerated or protected
tens of thousands of hectares of forests, including Dangejheri’ts forest.
These areas are entirely managed by women.

Large forest areas
have been conserved as forests and wildlife reserves in Nagaland by the various
tribes with over 100 villages such as Khonoma, Luzuphuhu, Chizami

Success stories of Community
conserved areas (CCA) in wetland and coastal conservation:

Communities in
hundreds if villages across India have protected heronries (Sareli in Uttar Pradesh, Chittarangangudi in
Tamilnadu). At Kokkare Var, Karntaka, villagers offer protection against
hunting. They even avoid foraging to the tamarind yield so that nesting birds
are not disturbed.

 In Tamilnadu, a classical example is 700 hectare
Chittarangudi tank, built in 1800. It is an important location where storks,
ibises and herons roost and nest. Villagers do not allow any hunting or
stealing or birds eggs. They do not burst crackers and they avoid
commercial fishing so as to provide food sources to the migratory birds.

Fishermen in Mangalajodi and other
villages at the Chilka lagoon, Odisha are protecting hundreds of thousands of
waterfowl. A number of coastal
communities are protecting critical coastal wildlife habitats such as mangroves
and nesting beaches in Odisha.

Success stories of Community conserved
areas (CCA) for individual species protection:

The greatly
endangered Black necked crane is India was once said to be restricted only to
Ladakh. But from 1990, the birds were extended and found in Sangti valley of
Arunachal Pradesh. All these were because of the efforts took by the Buddhist
community called Morpa. They learnt to coexist with these birds.

In Rajasthan, the
people of Keechan village provides shelter and food to the wintering population
of Demoiselle cranes whose numbers can go up to 10,000 during
breeding season.  

Pedullupallu village of Cuddapah
district in Andhra Pradesh protects storks, ibises and cormorants. Villagers take
care of the birds as if it were their own children. They feed the injured and
fallen chicks.


     From all these case studies, there is one thing that
are clearly evident. Many ancient trees that are surviving till today are
because of sacred belief and worship. The indigenous and very small community
people have helped to conserve biodiversity. Although there are many protection
acts, the tribes and villagers residing inside the forest play a major role in
conservation and they have a special bond with nature and this makes them to
take the sole responsibility to conserve forests and wildlife.


Rajiv and
Virendra., The role of ethnic and indigenous people of India and their culture
in conservation of biodiversity., World forestry congress.,2003., Canada.

Kandari, Bishit,
Bhardwaj, Thakur., Conservation and management of sacred groves myths and
belifs of tribal communities- a case study from North India., Enviromental
systems research., 2014.

Tribes and
environment conservation., International journal of Advancements in research
and technology., Volume 3., issue 7., 2014., pg no-60

Balasinorwala., Community conserved areas in India., pdf., Pune.