March 21 is declared as the INTERNATIONAL DAY OF FORESTS

Chapter 2: Background and Context

The concepts of biodiversity and sustainable management of natural resources of forests became a global concern during 1980’s and 90’s and globalization has triggered an upsurge in the production of plant based medicines and herbal products. More than seventy percent of the people worldwide rely chiefly on traditional, largely herbal medicine to meet their primary health care needs. India, being a tropical country with favourable phytogeographical prerequisites for plant growth, has rich floral diversity with estimated 45,000 plant species and over a sixth of them have medicinal value. Traditional herbal medicine has been practiced in India and China since ancient times. India is also one of the world’s leading exporters of medicinal plants (MPs) and herbal products, second only to China. The international market of herbal products is estimated to be US $ 62 billion and this is poised to grow to US $ 5 trillion by the year 2050 (Tewari, 2000)4. India is one of the mega-biodiversity countries

in the world. 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, 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. Only about 15 % of MPs are cultivated while more than 85 % of MPs used by Indian industry is collected from the wild/forests and other natural habitat (Gupta, 19935; FRLHT, 19976; 20017) mostly of Government owned land besides a marginal extent may be of private enterprises.

Footnotes:

Tewari D.N. 2000. Report of the Task Force on Conservation & Sustainable use of Medicinal Plants, Planning Commission, Government of India, New Delhi.

Gupta, R. 1993. Conservation and Utilisation of Indian Medicinal Plants; Indian Journal of Plant Genetic Resources, 131.

Anon. 1997. Guidelines for National Policy and Conservation Programmes and the key role of Forestry Sector in commencing India’s Medicinal Plants; – A Technical Report, Foundation for Revitalisation of Local Health Traditions Medicinal Plants of India; Bangalore.

Anon. 2001. Forestry Sector in Conserving India’s Medicinal plants, Foundation for Revitalization of Local Health Traditions, Bangalore.

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