March 21 is declared as the INTERNATIONAL DAY OF FORESTS

Chapter 1: Introduction

A group of plants, which serve as healers and health rejuvenators, are known as Medicinal Plants (MPs). Any part / parts of these plants which are used by any of the Indian traditional system of medicine like Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha, Tibetian, the rich and diverse folk medical tradition, Western Biomedical system (Allopathy) or Homeopathy are termed ‘‘medicinal plants” in this study.

‘ The variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems’ (UN, 1992).1 Such diversity is the basis of human survival and well-being since biodiversity offers a range of goods and services for the people. It is estimated that 70-80% people worldwide rely chiefly on traditional, largely herbal, medicine to meet their primary health care needs (Farmsworth et al., 1991).2 This diversity is fast disappearing from this Earth putting everyone at risk.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) has indicated that nearly 12.5% of known flowering plants of the World suffer from different degrees of threats. A similar proportion (12.5%) of the 8,000 Medicinal Plant species as threatened category is found in India and this works out to about 1,000 Medicinal Plant species which suffer from various degrees of threat. 112 such plants are from the southern part of India in which Tamil Nadu has the main share. Of all these, about 201 endemic plants of the country need immediate management intervention to save these rare genetic resources from permanent loss. The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 covers only six plant species, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) list covers eleven plant species and Ministry of Commerce and Trade (Govt. of India) notified 29 floral

species of Indian plants including the above six and eleven plants. Therefore, we need to relook at the existing policy framework regarding the protection assurance to the floral species of the country.

Biodiversity governance can be defined as ‘the manner in which stakeholders participate effectively in policy setting and decision making that is based on rule of law, is transparent, and is based on equity and accountability in order to ensure that the strategic vision of conserving biodiversity and ecosystems, using them sustainably, and sharing of the benefits are enforced at the national, regional and global levels for current and future uses.

(Pisupati, 2012)3

In case of biodiversity management of medicinal plants in the country, a big void could be observed while core characteristics of biodiversity governance are compared with the existing system of trading, harvesting, utility and overall management practices of these precious resources of the country. None of the core characteristics of the biodiversity governance could find place in existing management system of this resource. Stakeholders participation in policy setting and decision making is absent, legal frameworks are not in place to protect the endemic and imperilled plant species which provide life saving drugs to the people., non transparency is the hallmark in trading of medicinal plants in land, the question of equity and accountability is far from reality. The strategic vision of conserving biodiversity and ecosystems, using MPs sustainably, and sharing of the benefits of MPs to the stakeholders have not even been thought of except a few sporadic examples. All these anomalies were focused and management strategies required for Endemic Threatened Medicinal Plants (ETMPs) in India are discussed following a specific system of methodology along with clear recommendation and action plan in last chapter of the book.

The original book (First Edition) and this booklet is intended to reach the users involved in the field, policy makers of the country and also the elites who convert the broad policy into practical steps to implement these in field. Be it conservation of medicinal plants, biodiversity, or eco development, or even application of advance technology in decision making and planning by geo informatics, there is lack of written document in the form of an authentic handbook to provide readymade information to the practitioners who toil in the field to undertake protection and conservation measures of imperilled plants and flora in general. I attempted to fill up this gap with my earnest efforts of a decade by offering this document as service to the Nation. In spite of my best efforts, it is possible that there may be some shortcomings / errors in this booklet inadvertently.

If these are intimated, I shall improve upon this book in future.

Footnotes:

1 UN (United Nations). 1992. Convention on Biological Diversity. Report of the United Nation’s Conference on Environment and Development, Rio de Janeiro.

2 Farmsworth, N.R. and D.D Sejarto. 1991. ‘Global Importance of Medicinal Plants’. in O. Akerele, V. Heywood and H.Synge (Eds), The Conservation of Medicinal Plants, Cambridge University Press, pp 25-51 : Shengji, Pei, 2001, ‘Ethnobotanical Approaches of Traditional Medicine Studies : Some Experiences from Asia, Pharmaceutical Botany, Vol 39, pp.74-79. Cambridge, UK.

Balakrishna Pisupati 2012 Biodiversity Governance, Lessons for International Environment Governance: Chairman, National Biodiversity Authority, Chennai.

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