Aizawl: Medicinal plants, which Mizoram has in plenty, if properly tapped, are an ideal solution to the sick economy of the far-flung Northeastern state of India.
''Despite agriculture being the major source of livelihood, the economic condition of agriculturists is declining in Mizoram and hence there is an urgent need to adopt alternate sustainable cultivation to replace the destructive jhum cultivation,'' the minister said after inaugurating a national level workshop on 'sustainable development through medicinal plants cultivation in Mizoram' here on Jun 12.
The day-long workshop was jointly organised by the state horticulture department, Mizoram state medicinal board and department of economics, Mizoram University at I&PR auditorium.
''The forests of Mizoram which are enriched with medicinal and aromatic plants have the potential to be a viable and sustainable source of income for the people,'' the minister added. He hoped that the workshop would be an important tool to address the economical and environmental needs of Mizoram.
According to a source from the state environment and forest department, Mizoram receives the lowest priority for scientific investigation of medicinal plants in the country although it is very rich in the bio-diversity.
''No effort has been made for survey of medicinal plants in the state till 1990 when Prof H Lalramnghinglova, the first local ethno-botanist, started work on botanical collection and ethno-botanical research,'' the source said.
According to available sources, more than 400 medicinal plants have been reported from Mizoram in which 62 were recorded as new medicinal plants and 64 were categorised as threatened species.
The minister said the slash-and-burn cultivation poses gravest threat to the medicinal plants in Mizoram.
Besides, heavy extractions of timber and fuel wood, hunting for food and harvest for edible and medicinal plants in the forests in the past have contributed to depletion of medicinal plant habitat.
''As a result, many valuable non-wood forest produce, including medicinal plants are rapidly being lost,'' forest officials said.
The Mizo tribals in the past largely depended on medicinal plants to treat different illnesses and wounds. However, the way the villagers extracted the raw materials from the forest were detrimental to the very existence of the forest products.
''The village herbal preparations include uprooting of the plants that are detrimental to conservation of sub populations. As a result, commonly used and effective herbal plants become rare and endangered on the verge of extinction,'' researchers have said.
The workshop basically aimed at conserving the home-grown medicinal plants which have the potential to be the major source of villagers' income.
Officials from horticulture department, state medicinal plants board, department of Economics, Mizoram University and experts from Anubhav Biotechnology Kolkata delivered lectures at the workshop.