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in order to stem the sudden decline in the numbers of medicinal plants in Jammu and Kashmir (j&k), the state government recently repealed the Kuth Act. The move is expected to encourage local people to cultivate medicinal and aromatic plants on their own land, with technical know-how being provided by the authorities.
"Earlier, under the Kuth Act, cultivation of these plants involved cumbersome procedures. Now any individual can participate in the activity," reveals P Patnaik, principal chief conservator of forests, j&k. According to Ghulam Mohidin Sofi, the state's forests and environment minister, these steps are meant to pave the way for a biomedicinal project that will be unveiled in Ganderbal later this year. The scheme would be propagated in other areas of j&k as well to make it a lucrative source of income for the people.
In another development, the Regional Research Laboratory (rrl), Kashmir, has set up nurseries to prepare the germ plasma of rare plant varieties. "There are about 700 medicinal plant species recorded in the British Pharmacy, of which 50 per cent are found in j&k's temperate region," discloses A S Shawl of rrl. The government has also decided to reactivate the dormant state herbal board.
It may be noted that in recent years smuggling of medicinal and aromatic plants has reached distressing levels in the state. Of the 100 plants endemic to the region, nearly 20 have been categorised as "highly endangered" because of human interference. The smugglers hire nomads living at high altitudes to collect the plants, "and pay them a pittance", says Tariq Ahmad, senior scientific assistant at the Regional Research Institute for Unani Medicine.