Important endangered medicinal plants in Kashmir

Many important medicinal plants are on the brink of extinction and researchers are finding it difficult to conduct their studies on these herbs as they are critically endangered in Jammu and Kashmir.

According to research conducted by the University of Kashmir in June this year, at least seven species of medicinal plants have been found to be critically endangered.

It includes Saussurea costus (Kuth), Trillium govanianum (trepatir), Aconitum Chasmanthum (Beshmolo), Aconitum Heterophyllum (Indian Atees), Aconitum Kashmiricum, Amebia Benthamii (Kah Zabaan) and Gentiana Kurroo (Nel Kant).

Dr. Akhtar H Malik, a scientist from the Department of Botany, University of Kashmir, told Rising Kashmir that researchers are struggling to carry out their research as these important plant species are critically endangered.

“These plant species have completely disappeared. Some species are present in the high security areas of the valley,” he said.

Malik said: “I did research in June this year. After searching everywhere, I found some species of plants at Hirpora Wildlife Sanctuary,” he said.

He said that overexploitation, fragmentation and loss of habitat, deforestation in recent years, invasion of other weeds are the reason for the decline of these medicinal herbs.

He said, “I even caught people red-handed when they were extracting important species of medicinal plants.

He said many factors, including overgrazing, climate change patterns and pollution, have also contributed to their decline in the valley.

Due to rampant exploitation by unscrupulous drug makers and local elements, many medicinal herbs once abundant in the Himalayas are rapidly dwindling.

A study conducted under the Special Assistance Program (SAP), Department of Botany and University of Kashmir revealed that more than 650 species of plants are used as medicine in one form or another in Kashmir Himalaya.

The valley has produced a diversity of medicinal plants that have been used in traditional health care systems for thousands of years.

Knowledge of traditional medicinal and aromatic plants has eroded in recent years due to rapid cultural change.

In addition, medicinal plants are being overexploited at an alarming rate.

A Forest Department official said Kashmir’s forests have seen massive extraction and smuggling of these herbs for the past two decades.

“Most of these herbs, which have great medicinal value, are illegally transported to other places like Chandigarh, New Delhi and other states where dozens of pharmaceutical companies are thriving,” he said.

“Our teams often arrest people who are grazing their sheep and then pulling grass to smuggle it. These cases often come from Kupwara and Tangmarg forests,” he said.

At least 32 species are threatened and the government’s red list is growing accordingly.

Alvin J. Chase