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Plant a day!
Each Plant nourishes many organisms; imagine the Eco-System with 20% of plant species gone...
Issue Date - 28/10/2010
It is famously said that ten trees planted today would not suffice or fill the void left behind by the five cut yesterday. So, for each tree forced out of existence, a complimentary farewell is also bid to a host of organisms and micro-organisms dependent on the demised tree. But imagine the fate of the ecosystem when an entire ‘specie’ gets wiped out! Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, together with the Natural History Museum (London) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), have compiled a shocking report, which reveals that almost 20% of the known 380,000 plant species face the petrifying risk of extinction. Natural reasons account for only 18.7% of the danger posed, the rest is man-induced mainly due to irresponsible agriculture (18.7%), harvesting (14.4%) and industrialisation (10.4%).

Renowned botanist Dr. Deepak Acharya however is of the opinion that the two main man-made causes are “bio-piracy” and the persistent problem of deforestation, induced by rigorous industrialisation. “Bio-piracy,” bemoaned Dr. Acharya to B&E, “is the most worrying predicament”. He highlighted, “Of the 400 species of plants used for medical reason, only 40 of them are being re-cultivated and even that dismal effort is disorganised”. The looming fact is quite clear. These 360 sidelined species would be extinct even before we realise and worse, their invaluable medicinal value would be forever lost too.

Safed Musli, the plant with versatile medicinal values, is one such example. With a gradually increasing annual demand currently standing at 35,000 MT, only about 15,000 MT is finding its way into the market. Alarmingly, the supply figure was 20,000 MT just five years back. Economics aside, this exceptionally-inverse demand-supply relation is due to the over-exploitation of the specie.

“The Government is unaware of the ‘quantities’ being used by the pharmaceutical companies,” adds Dr. Acharya. “Forest department should be involved in the commercial process,” he suggests. Raw capitalisation like the recent ‘Vedanta’ intrusion is another sign of things to come. The village of Patalpur is one more reflection of the aftereffects of corporate evils. The naïve farmers and locals dance to the beats of flashy CD players as the industrialists successfully bribed/raided them off their botanic diversity. Acknowledging that industrialization is on a high, the micro-biologist adds, “though I’m not against it, I feel enough is not being done to sustain it strategically.”

Deforestation, especially in the tropical and sub-tropical regions of India, is another intimidating situation. Outside India too, close to 65% of endangered species lie in the tropics. Madagascar, which houses spectacular variety of biodiversity especially towards its tropical eastern coast, is infamous for the practice of ‘slash and burn’ cultivation. The process, which is carried out by cutting and burning forests to create plain fields for agriculture, is also guilty of contributing to the growing list of endangered species.

Natural reasons could also be responsible for some irreversible damage to the environment seen in the case of Kalahari plant. But little can be done against the force of nature. The humans, meanwhile, prepare for a mid-October conference in Nagoya, Japan where many countries are expected to converge. Dr. Acharya labels the participants “seminarists” while commenting that “every year summits are held for various issues without really implementing much.”

Indeed, policy-making is a major issue but let’s pray the Nagoya convention brings more ‘Hope’ than the much-hyped ‘Hopenhagen’.


Shoaib Ahmed           

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