Smugglers make hay as exploitation of medicinal plants goes unchecked
Srinagar, Jan 14:
Three hours into the arduous trek, Salim, 45-year-old forager hailing from
indigenous Gujjar community of Sonamarg, lets out a shriek of joy, as he spots
a cluster of medicinal plant species called Trillium Govainum, locally known as
‘Tripather’ on the grassy floor. He digs into the roots gently with a spade and
carefully places the bulbs in a cloth bag slung on his shoulder.
“I am selling
these plant bulbs to a smuggler in Srinagar for Rs 2000-3000 per kilogram. This
is how I make my living,” he says.
Every year, in
the month of April, Salim gears up for the trek and extracts around half gram
of the plant bulbs daily. The mountain, he has chosen is at an altitude of
2,500 metres, as this is the ideal height, where the healing Himalayan green
Begum, 40, starts her foraging journey annually in the month of June. Her
sought after plant is Fritlaria Roylei, locally known as ‘Sheet Khaar’, which grows
abundantly in Gurez Valley, Gulamarg, Lolab and Hirpora wildlife sanctuary. It
is used to treat around 80 ailments.
“We don’t know if
it is used for curing diseases. We are simply extracting it to make some money
out of it. There are plenty of smugglers who are in need of it,” she says.
notes that they always fear getting caught by the forest guards. “We only sell
when we are familiar with the smugglers otherwise there are chances we may be
caught,” she says
are scores of local foragers from other areas of Jammu and Kashmir who go out
in the quest of finding the rare plant species.
local men and women to the forest to get these plants as it becomes difficult
for forest guards to identify these people because they go in forests to
collect various things like forest wood and dried leaves.
Kashmir has a rich resource of medicinal
plants, which are used in aromatherapy and cosmetics as well as medical
treatments. Demand for these plants from Europe, China, Japan and other nations
have made Kashmir a fertile ground for smugglers.
More than 80
percent population in developing countries is dependent upon traditional system
According to the
official data compiled Department of Bio diversity and Taxonomy, Kashmir
University, there are 1000 different kinds of medicinal plants available in the
J&K out of which 300 are endemic –they are found in particular
geographical region. Among them are some
high end plants having high commercial value and are dwindling fast due to huge
Trillium, which was earlier a lesser known medicinal plan in trade, has gained
popularity in commercial utilization these days. It is one of the most sought
after medicinal species of the western Himalayan region. However due to high
demand and no significant regeneration, it is declining by the day, as per the
part of the plant, i.e. rhizome is key material of trade containing Trillarin
which on hydrolysis yield diosgenin and used in preparation of steroidal and
sex-hormones. It is sold in lakhs
internationally,” it says.
species like Podophylum Hexandum (local name: Vane Wangun), Sasurra Caustus
(local name: Koth), Aconitum Heterophulym (local name: Phatrees), Sasurra Sicra
(local name: Jueg Badshah) are on the verge of extinction, as per various
Akhtar H Malik, a
researcher at the Kashmir University, attributed “overexploitation, habitat
destruction, unchecked deforestation and overgrazing as the primary reasons for
the declining rate of medicinal plants”.
“The locals get Rs 2500 to 3000 per kilogram
of Trillium. It sells at Rs 70,000 per
kilogram. There are some foreigners who come as tourists but carry medicinal
plants in their bags. These medicinal plants are being exported in trucks laden
with fruits to Chandigarh from where it is being supplied to various parts,” he
officer, Medicinal Plant Board, Dr Wahid Hassan said forest department has
already reserved 1785 hectares of land for the conservation of medicinal
“This step was
taken under a project sanctioned in 2010 and was competed in 2017. Around 4.34
crore rupees were given for the conservation of medicinal plants. For
rehabilitation, the department is already planning to collaborate with the
forest dwellers. They will be given the mandate of extracting and selling the
plants. This will eventually generate employment and help us in securing the
plants for posterity,” he said.