Unscientific exploitation of forest resources and recurring incidents of forest fires have led to the depletion of medicinal plants in forest areas in the State, according to speakers in a workshop on protection of herbal plants here.

Inaugurating the one-day workshop for members of the Vana Samrakshana Samithis (VSS) under the Kannur Social Forestry Division here on Wednesday, Chief Forest Conservator (Northern Circle) D.K. Varma said that India is a leading country involved in management and protection of medicinal plants as the country has a rich-tradition of Ayurveda-based healing practices. However, the availability of medicinal plants had increased over the years as a result of reduction in the forest areas, encroachment and forest fires. In the State, there were 23 Ayurveda drugs-making companies including Oushadhi in the government sector, he pointed out. Though the State was known to have rich forest areas, herbal medicines from the State’s forest areas accounted for only 30 to 40 per cent of the total requirement in the State, he informed. Himalayan region is the other medicinal plants-rich area in the country, he stated.

Attributing the decline in the availability of the medicinal plants to unscientific exploitation of forest wealth and recurring incidents of forest fires, he called upon the VSS’ to cultivate herbal plants as a project under the Forest Development Authority. (FDA). The potential of the State for extending the area under cultivation of the medicinal plants should be tapped fully, he said adding that each VSS should initiate steps to cultivate the plants in their respective forest areas. The State once had a great reputation as a major source of medicinal plants, he said and noted that today cultivators in northern States were growing the plants in large areas. Medicinal plants were the beauty of the forests, he observed.

Divisional Forest Officer A. Ranjan said that the efforts to increase the quantity of medicinal plants in the State had gained importance as Ayurveda was now being recognised as an effective healing system. DFO (Flying Squad) John Mathew said that non-availability of genuine medicinal plants was also affecting the quality of Ayurveda concoctions.

The inaugural session was inaugurated by Social Forestry Division Assistant conservator K.M. Sreekumar. Forest Range Officer K. Premarajan was also present. Integrated Rural Technology Centre project co-ordinator M.K.P. Mavilayi and P.V. Dasan took classes at the workshop.