IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


7th March, 2024 Environment


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Picture Courtesy: https://en.gaonconnection.com/in-rajasthan-camels-and-sheep-are-set-to-face-a-fodder-crisis-as-about-600-year-old-oran-is-being-uprooted/

Context: The proposal by the Rajasthan government to classify orans as "deemed forests" is triggering concerns among communities, particularly in western Rajasthan, who rely on these sacred groves for various purposes.


  • The state government of Rajasthan issued a notification on February 1, 2024, proposing to classify orans (sacred groves) as deemed forests. This decision has raised concerns among local communities, particularly in western Rajasthan, about potential restrictions on access to forest produce and threats to their livelihoods.
  • The notification, in compliance with Supreme Court directives, includes orans, Dev-vans, and Rundhs as forest lands to be given the status of deemed forest. Local communities have until March 3, 2024, to submit objections to this proposal.

Orans are sacred groves found in the Thar Desert region of Rajasthan. These patches of forests are traditionally protected and managed by local communities and hold immense cultural and ecological significance

Local Concerns and Objections

  • Cultural and Religious Significance: Orans hold cultural and religious significance for the communities, serving as spaces for worship, last rites, and religious events. Villagers utilize the forest area for cattle herding, pastures, and sustenance, with a significant number of camels and sheep dependent on these areas.
  • Livelihood and Daily Use: Villagers rely on orans for various resources, including gum, timber, forest produce, and wild vegetables, crucial for their livelihoods and daily needs. The fear is that declaring orans as deemed forests could result in restrictions on access to these resources, impacting the economic activities of the communities.
  • Potential Displacement: Concerns are raised that if the state forest department takes over the orans, villagers might have to vacate the land, affecting not only their livelihoods but also their residences. Houses located in proximity to orans could face challenges if the government asserts control over these areas.
  • Lack of Consultation: Community members expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of consultation or hearings before the proposal was made, emphasizing that no representative from the government approached them for their input.

Legal Perspective

  • Definition of Deemed Forests: Deemed forests are areas that exhibit characteristics of forests but are not officially notified or recorded in government or revenue records. The Supreme Court, in the TN Godavarman case of 1996, directed state governments to identify such lands, and they fall under Section 2 of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.
  • Purpose of Classification: The classification aims to protect such lands from degradation, prohibiting activities like mining, deforestation, quarrying, or infrastructure projects without central government permission. Access to the forest for grazing or worshipping is generally not restricted under this classification.

Sacred Groves

Key Points

Detailed Explanation


Sacred groves are natural sanctuaries with religious or spiritual significance to a particular community. These patches of forests are typically protected and managed by the community itself.

Global Presence

Found in various cultures worldwide, including India, Africa, Japan, Europe, and the Americas. Each culture has its unique traditions and beliefs associated with these sacred spaces.

Ecological Importance

Sacred groves often act as biodiversity hotspots, harbouring a rich variety of flora and fauna.

They serve as critical refuges for threatened species and contribute to ecosystem health by: Maintaining water tables and regulating local climates.

Cultural Significance

These groves hold deep cultural and spiritual value for local communities. They are often associated with deities, spirits, and ancestors.

Communities use them for various purposes, including: Religious ceremonies, Rituals, Traditional medicine practices, Cultural gatherings


Encroachment for agriculture or development.

Deforestation for timber or fuelwood.

Unsustainable resource extraction of medicinal plants or non-timber forest products.

Development projects like roads or dams.

Conservation Efforts

Community engagement: Working with local communities to develop sustainable management plans for the groves.

Legal protection: Lobbying for legal recognition and protection of sacred groves.

Research: Studying the ecological and cultural value of sacred groves to inform conservation strategies.

Education: Raising awareness about the importance of sacred groves for biodiversity conservation and cultural heritage.


  • The situation in Rajasthan highlights the delicate balance between conservation efforts and the rights and livelihoods of local communities. While the government aims to protect ecologically sensitive areas, the concerns of villagers regarding potential displacement, loss of livelihood, and lack of consultation merit careful consideration. Legal proceedings and expert opinions add complexity to the issue, emphasizing the need for a comprehensive understanding of the implications of classifying orans as deemed forests.


Q. What is the PRIMARY reason local communities protect sacred groves?

A) To harvest timber for commercial purposes.

B) To fulfill religious and cultural practices.

C) To allow for unrestricted grazing by livestock.

D) To generate revenue through tourism.

Answer: B


Sacred groves hold deep cultural and religious significance for local communities, and their protection is often tied to traditional practices and beliefs.