Medicinal plants face extinction in North East
Many of the pharmaceutical companies collect their requirement from wild sources through casual and unskilled collectors and due to indiscriminate collection many of the species disappear from their original habitats, say experts participating in the programme. Many important species are either on the verge of extinction from the region or being threatened because of unawareness of the local people and lack of sustainable utilisation strategies.
The Northeast is rich in plant resources,ethnobiocultures and ranks sixth among the 25 mega diversity hot spot regions of the world. More than 70 per cent of the area is predominantly hilly and having climatic heterogeneity with diverse agro climatic zones.
The region is full of plant genetic resources with a total of about 8000 species of flowering plants from the Himalayas of which about 5000 species are reported from the N E region. Till date, more than 1400 medicinal plants have been reported by different workers and many of them belong to rare, endangered and threatened (RET) category and some are even endemic.
Many medicinal plants are unscientifically collected and among them are the "Durik Ada" variety the root of which is used as spice and condiments. Another is the Zingiberaceae species which is explored heavily from the forest and these are being collected from wild sources without any programme of regeneration. Experts say that if this continues unabated, in the near future we are bound to loose many of them for ever.
The region is considered as one of the richest in biological diversity and medicinal plants constitute a major component. It is a significant zone and represents the transition zone between India, Indo-Malayam and Indo-Chinese biogeographic region as well as meeting place of the Himalayan mountains with that of Peninsular India and acts as biogeographic gateway of plant migration.
Experts stress on the need of proper assessment of the status, documentation and to develop efficient conservation strategies for these species to prevent further genetic erosion and bring them into controlled commercial exploitation from the natural habitat to cultivation. They have to converted from species to crop variety in a systematic multidisciplinary approach, they said.
Despite being the richest in ethnobotanical information, we are not been able to commercialise any of the information and as a result people hardly can realise their importance. Experts have urged NEDFI to take up a multidisciplinary network approach covering the entire region upto sustainable utilisation.
Lot or works are taken up by various agencies but very little has come out and the need of the hour is to make the region a separate task force. A separate network research project involving leading institutions and organisations can help in developing the medicinal plants.