Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Jun 6:
As many as 42 species of rare plants are on the verge of extinction in Odisha due to lack of conservation measures and rampant illegal trade of the herbs. Some of the more important varieties among them are Ashoka, Lodha, Medha, and Fanaphana.
Rapid deforestation and smuggling of rare herbs have contributed to the irreparable damage to these plants.
As per an estimate, there are around 2.5 lakh rare varieties of plants across the globe of which approximately 10 percent is on the verge of extinction. In India, there are about 18, 000-20, 000 varieties of rare medicinal plants. However, over 175 varieties of medicinal plants are fast vanishing from the forests, especially in the north-eastern states, Eastern Ghat and Western Ghat regions.
According to the findings of a survey, over 100 medicinal plants are found in Odisha of which 42 are on the verge of extinction. They are mainly found in Similipal and Mahendragiri forests, besides the mangrove forests along the coast.
Ashoka, Lodha, Medha, Fanaphana, Araguna, Pancha Angula, Nageswara, Pippali, Simarsingha, Rama Kedara and Patala Garuda are among the fast depleting medicinal plants on the verge of extinction. The mafias extract the bark, fruit, trunk, and root, which have a very high demand for therapeutic purposes, and smuggle them to other states.
Though there are about 50, 000 Ashoka trees in the Champagarh forests near Banapur, the numbers are not encouraging.
“It is very difficult to preserve the rare varieties of plants considering the pace at which the forest cover is depleting. In view of the grim situation, we have taken measures to preserve these rare species of plants. In the preliminary stage, we have undertaken to preserve 10 such rare varieties through seed germination,” Principal scientist (taxonomy and conservation) of Regional Plant Resource Centre (RPRC) Pratap Chandra Panda said.
Sources said the flora and fauna in Odisha forests have drastically reduced due to smuggling of roots and trunks of the medicinal plants. Besides, unscrupulous elements setting afire forests have caused irreparable damage to the seeds preventing germination.
“We resort to cloning of the plants when production of saplings is not possible through seed germination. The latter takes at least 5-6 years to produce its young ones. So, mass preservation is not possible through this process. Creating herbal gardens, promoting afforestation, and awareness among people can contribute to the increase in the number of these rare species,” Panda said.