Conservation of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants

(Establishment of a Herbal Garden)

Kashmir Himalaya harbNagriors diverse habitats which support a rich herbal wealth that has been used a resource base by its people since times immemorial Kashmir is famous for its economically valued medicinal and aromatic plants, showing existence from sub tropical areas to higher reaches of alpine zones. The climate of Kashmir is most favorable for cultivating varied types of herbs rarely found in other parts of the world. Kashmir has the distinction of being one of the richest repositories of medicinal flora. The ethnic use of these herbs dates back to 3000-1000 BC and was in all probability the only means of curing the diseases.

There is nothing in this universe which is non medicinal’’ [Ashtanga Hridaya Sutrashthana , 9:10]

 

There is a large secretive and mostly unregulated trade in medicinal plants, mainly from the wild. As a result these valuable sources are depleting due to over exploitation, over use, illegal trade, pre harvest, uprooting and habitat loss. Not only this there are species which are critically endangered and some are on the verge of extinction. The International Union for Conservation of Nature and vulnerable natural resources (IUCN) has issued red list of threatened species. The updates of year 2015, IUCN Red List of threatened plants reveal the addition of forty four medicinal plant species from India. In the recent update, ten medicinal plant species have been categorized as critically endangered and 16 as endangered. Medicinal plants in Kashmir facing the threat include Aconitum-Chasmahtum (Zehar Mohar) Gentiana Kuroo ( Neel Kanth) Chlorophytum Boriuilianum  (Zulposh),Aconitum Heterophyllum (Patris) Nardostachys Jatamansi (Tri-Patri), Saussurea Costus (Kuth) etc. The other factors responsible for threatening the very existence of these plants are (a) Fire (b) Grazing (c) Illicit Collection/theft/uprooting. Unwary of the potential threat arising due to pace of over exploitation and habitat loss, these valuable resources are bound to perish and may result in ecological imbalance. It is a matter of serious concern and needs conservation measures.

 

In this direction an effort has been made to establish a “ Herbal Garden” at HSS Nagri on a stretch of waste land lying southwards and is in harmony with the lush green forests at its threshold. The land consisting of 12 kanals is an ideal site for in-situ and ex-situ cultivation of herbal plants. The physiographic of the area is favorable for the cultivation of different kinds of medicinal plants. It is an established fact that the conservation of the biological diversity is best achieved in the quickest, the most efficient and the most effective way in its natural habitats. work on the said project was given necessary impetus, despite scarcity of funds. The area occupied was not flat but a steep slope. Initially the slope area was changed to terraces followed by leveling and bed formation to retain humus, ingredients and moisture. The garden has been established with the following objectives in mind

 

 

  1. Propagation and conservation of medicinal plants
  2. Popularizing the use of local medicinal plants vis a vis the Indian system of medicine
  3. Establishment of sustainable resource base and dissemination of information.
  4. Creating a gene-pool of indigenous valuable herbs
  5. Creation of unique garden both for demonstration and extensive cultivation.

In this regard collection and transferring of plants mainly from the wild is in progress. Identification of medicinal plants is challenging task and many plants growing at high attitudes are under scrutiny. It is irony that the locals express ignorance  about the names and lack the identification of even important medicinal plants, which have been once the only source of curing diseases. Cultivation of one hundred different herbal and aromatic plants is the target set for this year.

Four groups have been formed comprising of staff/ students and SMDC members to help in achieving the target. Each group takes care of its allotted portion. The Herbal garden first of its kind is now in its full bloom. The safety of these plants is a big question and all concerned authorities have to take early measures in this regard. The garden will be of demonstrative type so that other educational institutions of the area fall in the que. The garden will serve as a motivational force for the students, teachers, scholars and other stakeholders having interest in the medicinal plants. According to U N estimates 80% of population use traditional herbal plants for curing of diseases. Given the fact that these medicines are non narcotic without side effects and are affordable. The climatic conditions of Kashmir are favorable for the cultivation of high quality medicinal and aromatic plants. Spreading awareness about the usefulness, curing power, demand and market viability will help in the systematic propagation and cultivation   of medicinal and aromatic plants as a cash crop. In view of low land holdings in our state these medicinal and aromatic plants can be cultivated in orchards, nurseries, home gardens etc. The state of J&K particularly valley has enormous potential to become main  producer and supplier of good quality medicinal plants having high demand and can earn hefty sums in exchange. Unemployment is the biggest challenge for every government. The sustained growth of important medicinal and aromatic plants can help to a large extent in addressing and over coming the grave problem of unemployment on the one hand and boost the economy of the state on the other hand.

We look forward for further guidance and support from worthy Director School Education Kashmir in this endeavor.

Mir Mohammad Gulzar

Principal HSS Nagrimalpora  

E-mail: nagrwari@gmail.com

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