Hunsur Village

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 Location Ecosystem Type   Conservation Type   Area(hectare) Legal status 
 Shimoga, Karnataka Forest Sacred Grove 50 Not Available

Case Study (2009)

Background

Hunsur village is located at a distance of about 12 km from Sagar town of Shimoga district. It is situated on the Sagar-Honnavar road and falls under the Maraatur Panchayat. The nearest bus stop is 1 km and the nearest railway station is 56 km from the village, in Talguppa.

There are about 180 households with a population of 900 in this village. Agriculture is the mainstay in the village. The people grow paddy, arecanut, coconut, cotton, sugarcane, banana, groundnut, vegetables and spices like cardamom, pepper and ginger. Naiks, madivaals, and havik brahmins are the major communities residing here. There is a primary school in the village and a high school is situated at a distance of 5 km. The landscape of the area around the village is of agricultural land and deciduous forests.

Hunsur has been protecting a sacred grove, Aigala Mathada kanu or Hunsur kanu, for generations. Legally the forests under the grove are reserved forests, brought under government control during British rule (for details, refer to Karnataka state chapter). The terrain of the grove is almost flat. The approximate area of the grove is about 50 ha. The major species that are present here are mango, dhupa, uppage, aradala or murinahuli and shuntikayi mara.

Although the sacred grove had existed for generations in the village, it was only about 40 years ago that the protection efforts started with a new vigour. Facing indifference and overuse, the forests around the village were gradually degrading, including those in the sacred grove. This degradation directly affected the availability of water in the village. Realisation about decreasing availability of water led to the formation of the Hunsur Gramabhivruddhi Trust (HGT) for forest protection.

Certain rules and regulations followed by the villagers with respect to the sacred grove include:

1. No one is allowed to cut the green trees or green leaves from the conserved area.

2. Outside villagers are not allowed free entry into the forest.

3. Villagers are allowed to collect NTFP in a sustainable manner.

4. Dry leaves are allowed to be collected from the forest.

5. Fuelwood from this forest is auctioned to the villagers once a year during the summer.

Offenders are fined an amount ranging from Rs 10 to 1000 by the Gramabhivruddhi Trust. The money obtained through fines is collected by the HGT and is used for developmental activities in the village.

Till about a decade ago, the village followed a system of patrolling the forests by rotation. This system was called kuyilugatti system. Kuyilugatti in the local language means a kind of sword. The sword would be kept in the households of the village by rotation, throughout the year. The family in whose house this sword is kept undertakes the responsibility of protecting the conserved forest. This practice has now been abandoned.

Within the village, the conservation effort was initiated by the older generation but the younger generation is well aware of the importance of this effort. 

The conserved area has a good vegetation canopy. Villagers claim an increase in the groundwater level since the protection started. Villagers are now able to procure a good quantity of fuelwood and dry leaves for making farmyard manure. The efforts by the HGT for the conservation practices in the sacred grove have also been recognised and won awards from the government.

K.C. Khannappa, an active member of the trust, recalls that there have been three or four attempts by the government to cut the trees within the grove. In 1967 the Karnataka forest department (KFD) gave out a contract for logging of trees in this area. In 1969 some plywood factories received a tender for selective felling of trees. In 1971, a contract was given to extract dalchini bark. However in all these cases the villagers have successfully avoided the entry of outsiders by staging a dharna (demonstration) and satyagraha.

Earlier, in 1961, a local landowner, who had started to encroach upon this forest area by digging trenches, was also stopped by the villagers.

Over the years the villagers have also received help from a few NGOs, including the Vruksha Laksha Andolan and Seva Sagar Trust, in their efforts. These NGOs have launched an abhiyaan (campaign) for protection of the sacred groves in this region.

  This case study has been contributed by Mr. Narsimha Hegde/ Balachandra Hegde in the year 2001. Additional information was added from the ‘Saving the Western Ghats Ecology’ section of The Hindu dated 23 September 1999.

Narsimha Hegde/Balachandra Hegde,
C/o Pandurang Hegde,
Basavaraja Nilaya,
Chowkimath, Sirsi - 581 401
Uttara Kannada
Karnataka

This case study was part of the Directory on Community Conserved Areas (2009), published by Kalpavriksh. The directory can be downloaded here.

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