Early Times Report
SRINAGAR, June 5: As the World Environment Day was observed on Friday, Kashmir’s green gold especially medicinal plants are on the verge of extinction.
World Environment Day is observed on June 5. Countries across the world mark this day to raise awareness about the environment and the importance of conserving the planet. The theme this year was ‘Celebrate Biodiversity’.
While in Kashmir, the forests are declining with each passing day without any preventive measures taken by the authorities.
The worst affected are medicinal plants which are on the verge of extinction.
Kashmir is a rich repository of medicinal plants, which are used in aromatherapy, cosmetics and medical treatments. There are 571 different kinds of medicinal plants available in Jammu and Kashmir, out of which some are high-end plants having high commercial value. The demand of these plants from European countries, China, Japan and other nations has turned Kashmir into a hotspot for smugglers.
Several medicinal and aromatic plant species are on the verge of extinction in the state. Trillium, which was earlier a lesser-known medicinal plant in trade, has gained popularity in commercial utilization these days. It is one of the most sought after medicinal species in the western Himalayan region.
The underground part of the plant, rhizome, is a key material used in the preparation of steroids.
In Tangmarg, which is situated in Baramulla district, it is not only the men but also women who walk miles through mountainous terrain to extract the plants.
A woman in her late thirties said that she earns Rs 400 to 600 on a daily basis. She extracts plants at Khilanmarg in the upper reaches of Gulmarg, but fears being caught by the forest guards. “We only sell when we know the smugglers, otherwise there are chances we may get caught,” she said.
The smugglers send local men and women to the forest for extraction. The forest guards deployed allow the locals to go in forests to gather various things like forest wood and dried leaves.
A resident of Tangmarg, who didn’t wish to be named, shared how medicinal plants reach international markets, “Around 10 years ago, the smugglers, with the help of locals, started extracting Trillium in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. After the plant started vanishing there, they shifted their focus to Kashmir four years ago.”
He said that several medicinal plants are on the verge of extinction in the Valley.
“The locals get Rs 2,500 to Rs 3,000 per kilogram of Trillium, which is then supplied to Chandigarh, Nepal, China and also European countries. It has a value of Rs 70,000 per kilogram there,” he said, adding that few foreigners, who come as tourists, 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 added.
Artemisia (Wormwood), which is locally known as Tethwan, is another medicinal plant which has a huge international value. These are found in Gulmarg, Sonamarg, Gananpeer and several parts of Budgam and Kupwara in Kashmir and are widely smuggled. Tethwan is an important part of Unani and Ayurvedic systems of medicine.
Other medicinal plants smuggled from Kashmir include Kutki, the dried rhizome with the root of Picrorhizakurrooa. It is widely used in Ayurvedic medicine.
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, the J&K government lifted the 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 banned medicinal plants.