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The Values of Sacred Swamps: Belief-Based Nature Conservation in a Secular World

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Global forest loss is highest in the tropical region, an area with high biological biodiversity. As some of these forests are part of indigenous forest management, it is important to pay attention to such management, its values and practices for better conservation. This paper focuses on sacred freshwater swamp forests of the Western Ghats, India, and with it a faith-based approach to nature conservation.

Drawing on fieldwork and focus groups, we present the rituals and rules that structure the governance of sacred swamps. We also discuss in depth the ecological, socio-cultural and economic valuation of these freshwater swamps by various local groups. In this way, we show overlaps and differences of valuation among different groups. In the context of a secular state with a diversity of faith groups and migration dynamics, we propose that faith-based governance of sacred swamps can benefit from the emphasis of faith-independent, 'accessible' ecological, socio-cultural and economic values to foster a dialogue around sacred swamps and their place for livelihoods and nature conservation.
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Keywords: Biodiversity; Western Ghats; freshwater swamps; sacred swamp; values

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2020

This article was made available online on March 30, 2020 as a Fast Track article with title: "The Values of Sacred Swamps: Belief-Based Nature Conservation in a Secular World".

More about this publication?
  • Environmental Values is an international peer-reviewed journal that brings together contributions from philosophy, economics, politics, sociology, geography, anthropology, ecology and other disciplines, which relate to the present and future environment of human beings and other species. In doing so we aim to clarify the relationship between practical policy issues and more fundamental underlying principles or assumptions.

    Environmental Values has a Journal Impact Factor (2018) of 1.933. 5 Year Impact Factor: 2.493.
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