168 rare species on verge of extinction, say surveys
By PS Dileep | ENS | Published: 08th April 2013 10:23 AM |
Biodiversity in the Eastern Ghats is undergoing a tremendous change and so are the 1,800- odd plants and herbs of great medicinal value found in the region.
Surveys indicate that at least 168 rare plants growing on the slopes of the Eastern Ghats are on the verge of extinction.
Experts at the departments of environmental sciences and botany in Andhra University believe that the hilly slopes in the district are changing for the worse.
Of the 7,500 plants and herbs of medicinal value found in India, about 1,800 plants and herbs are found in the Eastern Ghats alone.
In the north Coastal Andhra region alone, nearly 700 herbs and plants are located in the districts of Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam.
Over 80,000 acres of forest land has been permanently destroyed in the last 32 years between 1980 and 2012.
The indiscriminate exploitation, trafficking of rare plants, mining activity and unscientific method of extracting medicines from these plants are said to be hampering the regeneration of these plants and herbs.
Notwithstanding the cries of environmentalists for urgent action, the forest department is yet to initiate measures to save them from extinction.
In view of the seriousness of the issue, the Girijan Co-operative Corporation (GCC) in association with the Andhra University initiated measures to conserve the medicinal plants some time ago but there is little progress.
According to experts, the forests in Eastern Ghats are unique, in the sense that they are the most ancient forest cover in the subcontinent.
More importantly, thanks to the solid bedrock, they house a vast number of tree species.
Alarmingly, at least 18 varieties of plants of therapeutic value seem to have virtually disappeared in Srikakulam district.
‘Nallavemu’ (Andrographis Paniculala) which can cure viral fevers and other illnesses and ‘Nallaeaswari’ (Aristolochiandica) mostly used to cure all types of body pains, particularly while tackling post-delivery complications in women, are two plants which have become very rare.
Similarly, ‘Tellaeaswari’ (Crotalaria Verrucosuy), ‘Garitakamma’ (Vernonia Cinerea, cure for malarial fevers), ‘Vasa’ ( A c o r u s c l a m u s ) , ‘Bogachidumpa’ (Cortos Speciosus), ‘Tippa Teega’ (Timpora Cordifolia, used for nerve-related problems) are among the 168 herbs on the verge of extinction.
According to the professors at the Andhra University, biodiversity in the region is being adversely affected by untrained locals extracting medicinal plants unscientifically, without planting and seeding, at the behest of middlemen who are associated with herbal product exporters or Ayurvedic drug manufacturers.
For example, plants like Saptarangi (used in anti-diabetic medicines) and Sidacordisolia (used for arthritis and rheumatic disorders), are increasingly becoming scarce in the Eastern Ghats.
Similarly, Satavari (used for curing gynaecological disorders), Sariba (for skin ailments), Aswagandha (for curing anxiety plus neurosis) and sarpagandha (for treating hypertension) are in need of adequate conservation.
Further, the mining of bauxite and other minerals too is becoming a major reason for decreasing number of plants and herbs in the region.
“Deforestation and unscientific extraction are rampant in Eastern Ghats and other coastal belts of AP, which is a treasure house of medicinal plants and herbs.
The mining activity is also causing pollution and exploitation of forest resulting in destruction of medicinal plants and herbs.
Unless the increasing mining activity and exploitation of forest are curbed, these medicinal plants would soon vanish from the Earth,” environmentalists say.