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Area under medicinal plants shrinks in J&K; 64 herbs declared ‘threatened’

Srinagar:  For the last few years, Jammu and Kashmir has recorded a decline in the area under medicinal plant cultivation.

Home to more than a thousand medicinal plant species, Jammu and Kashmir has the potential to become the herb capital of India.

However, the area under medical plant cultivation has decreased from 34 hectares in 2016 to a mere 28 hectares in 2019.

Under the ‘Medicinal Plants’ component of the National Ayush Mission scheme, the centre is supporting market-driven cultivation of 140 prioritized medicinal plants in identified clusters and zones across the country.

 However, Jammu and Kashmir, which has been constantly witnessing illegal exploitation of medicinal plants, is not reporting any progressive results in the cultivation and production both at the private as well as government level.

From 34 hectares in 2016, the area under cultivation of various medicinal herbs declined to 21 hectares in 2017.  In 2018, 24 hectares of the land were used by the government for cultivating medicinal herbs. In 2019, four more hectares were brought under medicinal plant cultivation.

 Researchers have documented that at least 1123 varieties of medicinal plants are found in Jammu and Kashmir.

A study published in 2018 identified 50 native medicinal plant species in the region that required “immediate conservation action” based on ecological and socioeconomic factors.

A source said the unsustainable cultivation coupled with the increased commercial collection, unmonitored trade, and habitat loss were the main reasons behind the illegal exploitation of medicinal herbs.

“Commercialization in the forest area and illegal trade are the biggest reasons for the smuggling of precious medicinal plants. Many people in Kashmir have nexus with pharma companies and smugglers. They are openly looting our natural treasure,” he said.

A study conducted by Dr. K Chandra Shekhar, a scientist at G B Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment, has concluded that the ill-managed extraction of medicinal herbs have caused huge loss to Jammu and Kashmir and other states.

Of the 112 medicinal plants declared ‘threatened’, 64 are found in Jammu and Kashmir.

An official of the Forest department said that they have drafted a proposal for mass cultivation of medicinal plants to boost production and exports.