Developing Conservation Management Strategies for Biodiversity Rich Sacred Natural Sites of Uttarakhand, India

Yogesh Gokhale* and Nazir A. Pala

Abstract: The scientific studies carried out all over India suggest the ecological importance of Sacred Natural Sites (SNS) in India with Uttarakhand being no exception. The existing SNS are degrading and losing the ground not only due to physical threats but also due to lack of documentation and studies to understand ecological importance.For documentation purpose a semistructured questionnaire was prepared which covered aspects such as village profile, management system, conservation options and perceptions for future management of these SNS. Of the surveyed 132 SNS from nine districts of Uttarakhand, a total of 294 plant species belonging to 108 families were enlisted. The management options followed by the local communities are documented. Out of various conservation management options followed, three options are mainly dominant, viz. social fencing, boundary demarcation and customary rights. The faith of the local people in the deity is the most obvious aspect of the SNS and it gets reflected from the social fencing as the dominant conservation management option followed by the local communities. There are three major suggestions that dominate out of the total eight suggestions made for conservation management of the SNS in Uttarakhand. The most important suggestion (26 per cent) is awareness and education for not only the younger generation but also for the practitioners and the government departments such as the State Forest Department. The research on protection and management of SNS can thus find site-specific solutions to evolve a conservation management plan for practitioners and policymakers.

Keywords: Sacred natural sites, conservation, management, biodiversity