Srinagar, July 15: The extraction and climate changes have hit the medicinal plants in Jammu and Kashmir.
Kashmir is 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 created Kashmir a fertile ground for smugglers.
There are 1300 different kinds of medicinal plants available in Jammu and Kashmir out of which some are high end plants having high commercial value.
Several medicinal and aromatic plant species are at the verge of extinction.
Mohammad Adil, a research scholar went to Afarwat in the upper reaches of picturesque Gulmarg in North Kashmir twice to collect samples of Arnebia Benthami which is commonly known as ‘Kahzaban’.
Both the times, he along with his co researcher had to return home empty handed.
“Eight years ago there was abundant availability of Kahzaban’ but are rarely found now because of extraction of medicinal plants by smugglers,” Adil told news agency Kashmir Indepth News Service (KINS).
Himalaya is one among the 36 biodiversity hotspots across the world. Biodiversity hotspots are those places which are rich in endemic plants but have experienced 70 percent habitat destruction.
From Tangmarg or Sonamarg, it is not only men but women too walk miles to mountains to extract the plants.
The smugglers send 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.
Earlier in 2005, the J&K government had imposed a ban on the extraction of medicinal plants, fearing extinction of some species. However in 2013, J&K Government lifted ban on the extraction of several medicinal plants and other minor forest produce from the forest areas of the state. However, the smugglers have also been extracting the rare medicinal plants which are banned to extract.
These medicinal plants are being exported in trucks laden with fruits to Chandigarh from where it is being supplied to various parts, he added.
Jammu and Kashmir has its forest cover stretching over 23,241 square kilometers, which is 10.46 per cent of its total geographical area of 1,01,387 square kilometers.
However, over one lakh kanals of forest area has been encroached in Kashmir.
A senior official gives varied reasons for reduction of medicinal plants. “Smuggle is not a main factor. Construction of roads, pollution, and stress on habitat are main reasons that we are losing our medicinal plants, which need to be preserved,” he said.
He said there are some medicinal plants which are rarely found anywhere in the world.
On September 3, last year, government framed 10 members Bio Diversity Council for Union Territory Jammu and Kashmir, which is headed by J&K Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Mohit Gera
Earlier, Jammu and Kashmir had Bio Diversity Board which was framed in 2015 but remained non functional.
As per the Biological Diversity Act, 2002, State Biodiversity Boards (SBBs) are to be established under Section 22 of the Act. Accordingly, SBBs were established. However, Jammu and Kashmir did not make Bio Diversity Board as this Act was not directly applicable to erstwhile state because of the special status under Article 370. Then it took J&K over a decade to frame rules. Eventually it made Bio Diversity Board in 2015 for a period of three years.
The Bio Diversity Board which is now Bio Diversity Council in Union Territory has to advise the government on matters relating to conservation of biodiversity, sustainable use of its components and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of utilization of biological resources.
As per the J&K Biological Diversity Rules, 2015, the State Biodiversity Board is required to advise the Government on any matter concerning conservation of biological diversity, sustainable use of its components; commission studies and sponsor investigations and research.