Ninety three per cent of wild medicinal plants used for making ayurvedic medicines in the country are endangered and the government is trying to relocate them from their usual habitat to protect them.
The threat to the plants came to the fore in an assessment exercise in different states carried out by the Botanical Survey of India.
The assessments were done for a total of 359 prioritised wild medicinal plant species. Out of this, 335 have been assigned Red List status ranging from critically endangered, endangered, vulnerable to near-threatened.
In addition, a total of 15 such species recorded in trade have been found threatened, officials in the health ministry's Ayush department said.
Some of the rare plants reported to be threatened, have been relocated during the last decade, including Utleria Salicifolia and Hydnocarpus Pentandra in Western Ghats, Gymnocladus Assamicus and Begonia Tessaricarpa from Arunachal Pradesh and Agapetes Smithiana in Sikkim.
The assessments have involved conducting Conservation Assessment and Management Prioritisation using International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List Categories.
The officials said the medicinal plant resources in the country are threatened by over exploitation to meet the demand of herbal industries.
As per the information received from the Ministry of Environment and Forests, about 95 per cent of such plants are harvested from the wild, primarily from forests.
The National Medicinal Plants Board constituted in November 2000, has been implementing a Central sector scheme for development and cultivation of medicinal plants since 2000-01.
This scheme was revised and renamed as “Central Sector Scheme for Conservation, Development and Sustainable Management of Medicinal Plants” during 2008-09.
States forest departments have been given assistance for protection and propagation of such endangered species, especially used by the herbal industries.
Projects for setting up of 29 Medicinal Plants Conservation Areas (MPCAs) have also been implemented in the states covering mainly the medicinal plants viz Asoka, Guggal and Dashmool varieties.
The scheme is being implemented with an outlay of Rs. 321.30 crore during the 11th Plan.
In addition, a new “Centrally Sponsored Scheme of National Mission on Medicinal Plants” with a total outlay of Rs. 630 crore is being implemented since 2008-09 by National Medicinal Plants Board. A total of 24 states have been covered under the scheme.