Govt wakes up to save critically endangered medical plants from extinction

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In its endeavour to save critically endangered medicinal plants in Jammu and Kashmir from extinction, state government has initiated work on a scientific strategy to save the prized plants. 
Taking cognizance of a report ‘30 animal, plant species on verge of extinction in J&K’ published in Greater Kashmir on 28th August the government conducted threadbare discussions with scientists to conserve the critically endangered plants. 
At least 30 species of animals and plants in Jammu and Kashmir are on verge of extinction, according to a latest notification issued by Union ministry of environment and forest (MoEF). The species—10 animals and 20 plants—have been categorised on basis of recommendations of state government. The notification makes the Centre legally bound to fund projects for protection of these species.   
The critically endangered 20 plants species of J&K are Aconitum chasmanthum (Patees), Aconitum deinorrhizum (Metha patees),  Aconitum heterophyllum ( Mohra), Aconitum kasmiricum, Aconitum violaceum (Patees) , Eremostachyssuperba (Sumbal e biabani),  Gentianaornata (Gentian) , Gentianakurro (Neel Kanthi , Kuru),  Lagotiscashmeriana ( Kashmir lagotis, Hong len-Ladakh) Meconopsislatifolia (Gul e Neelam)  Meconopsis aculeate, (Blue poppy), Saussureacostus (Kuth), Saussurea medusa (Snow lotus), Saussureasimpsoniana ( Phen Kamal, Jogi Badshah),  Sophoramoorcroftiana (Baker, Praval Simi (Ladakh), Podophyllumhexandrum (Bankakkri, Banwangun), Dactylorhizahatagirea (Salam panja),  Picrorrhizakurroa (Kutki)  Betulautilis (Bhurj) and Taxuswallichiana ( Barmi) respectively.
Officials said the government has roped in experts from State Medicinal Plants Board, State Forest Research Institute (Bio-diversity Board), Department of Ecology Environment and Remote Sensing, Department of Horticulture, Department of Floriculture, SKUAST-K ( Regional centre National Medicinal Plants Board), Directorate of School Education Kashmir to devise strategy for saving the critically endangered medicinal plants. 
“Government is serious to save the endangered species of medical plants,” director Indian Systems of Medicine (J&K) Niraj Kumar, told Greater Kashmir.
Kumar today convened a meeting of all concerned departments to devise the strategy for tackling “grim situation” about threat to the medicinal plants which are on verge of extinction. 
During the meeting, Kumar, who is member secretary J&K State Medicinal Plants Board, stressed on the need of replenishing the natural resources through encouraging commercial cultivation of medicinal plants and diversifying natural habitat of medicinal plants. 
“There are about 100 species of medicinal plants which are endangered or vulnerable,” he said. He recommended that people living near the forest areas need to be trained to cultivate and preserve medicinal plants available herbs in the area.
“There is also need of demarcation of areas where farmers in clusters will be encouraged to take up the cultivation of these rare herbs. Research methodologies are also need to develop new agro-techniques to preserve the gene bank of these medicinal plants,” Kumar said. 
Kumar said J&K State Forest Research Institute has consented to establish two nurseries of medicinal plants which will serve as the gene bank of these critically endangered species. He said the department of floriculture Kashmir will also establish two nurseries at Kokernnag and Tangmarg. 
SKUAST-K has been asked to develop cultivation protocols and agro-technique of some of these endangered medicinal plants. Directorate of School education will help in capacity building, awareness and will propagate at least one medicinal plant from the list of endangered species. 
The union ministry has prohibited collection of the species of these plants shall be prohibited, except with the approval of the Jammu and Kashmir State Biodiversity Board only for the purposes of scientific research, herbarium and museum of scientific and academic institutions, propagation and any other scientific investigation.
The ministry has directed the Jammu and Kashmir State Biodiversity Board to undertake studies on all aspects of the notified species for holistic understanding, propagation of the notified species for the purpose of conservation and rehabilitation. 
O.P Sharma, director Ecology, Environment and Remote Sensing stressed upon the importance of spreading awareness about preservation of medicinal plants. He said commonly found medicinal plants should be encouraged to be utilized for minor ailments as well as food alternatives. 
He also suggested establishing Herbal villages where medicinal trees can be grown. 
“We need to make value addition of medicinal plants like Herbal teas, and reviving the old tradition of using natural food dyes,” he said.  
Dr Anzar A Khuroo, senior assistant professor Centre for Biodiversity and Taxonomy, Kashmir University suggested that government should go for in-situ conservation of critically endangered plants. “These nurseries should be established close to places where species of critically endangered plants grow. It can be backed by ex-situ conservation measures,” he added.  

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