The Himalayan state of Uttarakhand presents a storehouse of biodiversity, where flora and fauna vary extensively with climate diversity from one region to the other. Between the Himalaya in the north and the hills and the plateau in the south lies a vast Gangetic Plains which is one of the most diverse and largest homogenous alluvial plains in the world.
Ayurveda has prospered in the laps of Himalaya and as such herbs growing here find high place in the Ayurvedic texts. It is an accomplished fact besides medicinal plants, Himalaya are the home of many species of aromatic nature. Thousands of species of medicinal plants and about 320 species have been identified so far in terms of their medicinal value. Therefore, the state of Uttarakhand is declared as an “Herbal State” in 2003. More than 250 species of medicinal and aromatic plants are being commercially extracted and traded.
However, the State could not harness the available species of medicinal plants optimally. Subsequently Uttarakhand government has established a Herbal Garden at Muni Ki Reti in 2004 as ‘Dr. Sushila Tiwari Herbal Garden, Muni ki Reti’ for the promotion of medicinal & aromatic plant’s cultivation, development and conservation. However, in the subsequent years due to scarcity of funds these facilities have eroded and lost their original shapes.
The challenges for endemic biodiversity conservation, ecological restoration, sustainable development, promotion of cultivation & marketing of medicinal plants and enhancement of livelihoods of the communities are huge and need to be addressed, immediately. Strategic development and involvement of communities in the conservation of natural resources is the key solution for preservation of this fragile Himalayan eco systems and to reduce biotic pressure on the forests, at the same time we can uplift the economic well-being of the local communities.
PROBLEMS AND OPPORTUNITIES
So, summarized below are the basic problems existent today and within it lie the opportunities –
- Need to create a common platform where, producers (farmers) and buyers (Pharmaceuticals) & technocrats (herbal expo) can meet, exchange technology, share, sale and buy herbal products. Need to fulfill up the gap between herbal producers and manufacturers.
- Need for eco-restoration, biodiversity conservation, nature education and livelihood enhancement.
- Ensuring regular flow of funds either from government or by creating a mechanism through which generated funds are flowed back – A Society.
- Need to promote scientific and efficient cultivation of herbs and medicinal plants in order to meet the increasing market demand and thereby open up a source of livelihood for farmers and to enhance their income.
- Educating masses, creating awareness, promoting responsible visits to the forests, teaching the importance of both terrestrial (forests) and aquatic (river Ganga) ecosystems for the well-being of human being thus, Creating the ambassadors of Nature shall be the integral part of forest management.
- Need of a government body i.e.; Forest Department to proactively take the onus for disseminating knowledge and creating awareness about the enchanting world of medicinal plants. Private players cannot be expected to fill this role, their motive is profit, not education. This presents the opportunity for the department to create a Centre Of Excellence and truly a world class attraction that can fulfill multiple needs of the society and environment.