JavaScript must be enabled in order for you to use the Site in standard view. However, it seems JavaScript is either disabled or not supported by your browser. To use standard view, enable JavaScript by changing your browser options.

| Last Updated:: 03/06/2015

Rapid urbanisation destroying Kerala’s sacred groves

According to a recent report by the State Assembly Committee on Forest, Environment and Tourism, Kerala’s sacred groves are on the verge of extinction. The culprit? Rapid urbanisation. More and more ancestral homes, which have traditionally housed these sacred groves on their premises, are being razed to make way for new buildings and this is destroying the rich biodiversity system, according to the report.


The sacred groves are known, locally, as ‘sarpakavu’ or ‘kavu’ and have served as traditional places of worship in and around villages across Kerala. Some of them are even adorned with idols of snakes (known as ‘sarpam’) and goddesses.


But with the state’s changing demographics, ancestral homes of all sizes— known as nallu kettus, ettu kettus, pathinaru kettus and pathaya puras—are giving way to skyscrapers and multi-storey buildings, leading to the destruction of the attached sacred groves.


According to the report, indiscriminate grazing of cattle, during the last few decades; a large-scale felling of trees for firewood; and changing worship patterns (from in nature to in temples) have also contributed to the shrinking numbers of the groves.


The groves also serve as the habitat of a large number of rare flora and fauna, including many species that are facing the threat of extinction. The report said that 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 across the state.


The report was tabled in a recent state assembly session. The Committee that prepared it was chaired by the Minister for Forest, Sports and Cinema, Thiruvanchur Radhakrishnan.


The report also found that, while there were in excess of 10,000 groves in the princely state of Travancore, alone, before the formation of Kerala, only around 1,200 of them remain, today.


Interestingly, the coastal district of Alappuzha has the highest number of groves and the high-range districts of Idukki in South Kerala and Wayanad in the Malabar region have the lowest numbers. ‘Iringorkavu’, the largest grove in Kerala is located in Perumbavur in Ernakulam district. It is spread across 2.5 acres.