Jammu and Kashmir is home to over 5000 varieties of aromatic and medicinal plants, out of which 4000 are found in the Valley’s forests. If tapped properly, this resource is said to have the potential to fetch the state an estimated 3 billion USD, making it a powerhouse in Herbal Medicine and perfume production.
Scientists have so far prioritized over seven hundred medicinal plants yielding high quality ingredients used in life saving medicaments, aromatherapy and cosmetics.
Estimates some months ago, by a voluntary group that has worked on the subjected, had indicated a Rs 24,000 crore annual loss to the state because of smuggling of medicinal herbs.
While local residents have often averred to an official-smuggler nexus, authorities’ difficulties had been compounded, by their own account, because smugglers would send ordinary villagers, men as well as women, to rob the forests.
Obviously, pilferage of this precious resource cannot be checked by the state machinery alone, and must, as many in authority also point out, include prominent villagers who need to be taken into confidence to facilitate the cooperation of the local population in supplementing the efforts of department concerned.
The favourable response that an official forest protection campaign had found in some villages needs to be built upon, and the drive broadened. Besides, while inviting tenders for extracting herbs, the state’s employed youth deserve to be given preference. This can strengthen a new field of livelihood as well as bring J and K much needed revenue.
Protecting medicinal plants from plunder and developing them on scientific lines can give Kashmir a strong presence on the economic map of the world.