A Framework for Strategic Management of Medicinal Plants

/ / 127

Manoj Kumar Sarkar, Indian Forest Service

Former Additional Chief Conservator of Forests, Tamil Nadu Forest Department, Government of Tamil Nadu, India

IIMB Management Review| December 2005
BioGov: IIBM Management Review

BioGov: IIBM Management Review

There is nothing in this universe which is non-medicinal, which cannot be made use of for many purposes and by many modes. Sutra Ch.9 – verse 10, Ashtanga Hridaya

Abstract:

India is one of twelve countries in the world with mega-biodiversity areas. Of its estimated 45,000 plant species, over a sixth have medicinal value. India is also one of the world’s leading exporters of medicinal plants (MPs), second only to China. With over 50,000 herbal formulations, an industrial turnover of Rs. 4200 crores per annum, and a projected annual growth rate of 20-30%, the MP related health sector is poised to take off. Despite its advantageous position, however, its share of the US$62 billion global market is less than half a percent.

The reasons for this situation are not far to seek. More than 85% of MPs used by Indian industry is collected from the wild. Although trade in MPs has doubled since globalisation, it is completely controlled by the informal sector with large traders operating from port towns. The Forest Department has no material stake in the trade, either in terms of revenue, or even in terms of surveillance of what is exported from the forest areas. The increase in illegal trading has led to destructive harvesting practices and over exploitation, putting more than 1000 species of MPs under threat. If steps are not taken to correct the faults in the system, there is a risk of great economic, cultural, environmental and genetic loss to the country. The protection and management of natural resources need support of various kinds – effective regulations, institutional mechanism and strong legislative support, as well as the participation of all stakeholders. Systematic short term and long term planning are necessary. Manoj Sarcar proposes a policy framework with strategies for conservation and sustainable utilisation of medicinal plants, and makes recommendations for enlarging the existing legal provisions of conservation to include threatened medicinal plants. He also provides a conservation development model for prioritising the management prescriptions for MPs.

That all plants are potential sources of medicine has been recognised in Indian literature thousands of years ago. It is estimated that 70-80% people worldwide rely chiefly on traditional, largely herbal, medicine to meet their primary health care needs. Because of their sustained and strategic utility to a large section of people, medicinal plants (MPs) have become an important national and global resource. Estimates for the numbers of species used medicinally vary from 35,000 to 70,000 worldwide.

The three leading exporting countries of MPs are China (ca. 240,000 tonnes per year over 1991-1997), India (ca. 80,000 tonnes) and Germany. Europe is the major trading centre for medicinal aromatic plants (MAPs) globally, with imports amounting to 440,000 tonnes in 19964. The total number of MAPs in international trade has been estimated at around 2500 species5, of which 880 species are commonly used in trade and industry in India.

The size of the global market for all herbal products is estimated at around US$62 billion, with 85% if the total import of MPs being done by the 12 developed countries. In this, India’s share is only about US$153 million, or 0.3%7, although it is the second largest exporter of MAPs after China with an average export of 36750 tonnes/year.

With over 50,000 herbal formulations in the codified medical tradition and known to rural communities in India, and 671124 registered medical practitioners practising traditional systems of medicine, India occupies a unique position in MP-related health culture, health security, economic and resource context in the world. The traditional knowledge based herbal sector in India has an industrial turnover of Rs. 4200 crores (Rs. 42 billion) per annum, with a projected annual growth rate of 20-30%. There are around9000 registered and licensed manufacturing units. Of these, 95% are in the cottage and small-scale sector. China and India are two great producers of MPs having more than 40% of global biodiversity. There is thus enormous scope for India to emerge as a major player in global herbal product based medicines. However, this requires a grand strategic plan, which takes a holistic view of the entire situation to boost export10 and minimise import.

India is one of twelve countries in the world with megabiodiversity areas. Of its estimated 45,000 plant species, 8000 are medicinal plants. However, more than 1000 species of Indian MPs may be under various degrees of threat. More than 85% of MPs used by the Indian industry are collected from the wild/forests. Much of this is illegal (the Forest Department does not conduct sales except minor forest produce and non timber forest produce (MFP/NTFP), and more than 70% of the collection involves destructive harvesting from the wild14. Further, globalisation has brought in an upsurge in production of plant-based medicines and herbal products and accelerated the export of crude medicinal drugs in the international market. Destructive harvesting practices and over exploitation, anthropogenic pressures like destruction of habitat, fragmentation of natural habitat and introduction of exotic species have pushed a large number of medicinal plants to the threshold point of survival. A threat assessment exercise carried out for southern and northern India has brought to notice around 200 Red listed MPs.

Strategic Management of Threatened Medicinal Plants in Tamil Nadu: A Study

India does not have any institutionalised mechanisms for thestudy of threatened MP species and their notification, or for the study of threatened MP species and their notification, or for the regulation of wild harvest. Little or no literature is available about the threat position of medicinal plants. It is imperative that we evolve methods for field identification and assessment of their threatened status and undertake recovery plans for their rehabilitation to protect the germplasm and prevent total genetic erosion of such species. To this end, we need to have definite institutional mechanisms for conducting training, research and regulation with short and long term goals.

Research Problem and Objectives

About 1000 MP species suffer from various degrees of threats and 206 of these need immediate attention for their protection and conservation. However, there is a lack of specific policy and legal provisions with appropriate management strategy for the conservation of medicinal plants.

The objectives of the present study were:

1. To propose a policy framework with strategies for conservation and sustainable utilisation of medicinal plants

2. To propose enlarging the existing legal provisions of conservation to include threatened medicinal plants

3. To provide a conservation development model for prioritising the management prescriptions of MPs

4. To provide species specific recommendations and an Action Plan for select MP species of the study area in Tamil Nadu.

Three research propositions were generated:

1) MPs are being depleted in their wild habitats

2) MPs do not get the attention they deserve from the custodians due to lack of appreciation of their value, utility and survival status

3) The Forest Department continues its priority for

  • protection and conservation of wild fauna rather than wild flora.
  • excellence in technicalities with less emphasis on policy, vision, skills and competence.

» Continue reading...14 pages

READ ONLINE OR ↓ DOWNLOAD

Download full PDF article

» Read Online OR ↓ Download

How to Cite

Manoj Kumar Sarkar. A Framework for Strategic Management of Medicinal Plants. IIMB Management Review, December 2005. Via: mks.biogov.in

Keywords

Forest Management, Medicinal Plants, Biodiversity Governance, Forest Management Policy