March 21 is declared as the INTERNATIONAL DAY OF FORESTS

Chapter 7: Conclusions

The importance of the MPs sector can be understood from the fact that herbal medicines serve the health care needs of about 70 to 80 per cent of the world’s population (WHO). The demand for herbal medicines is growing in developing as well as in developed countries. This has renewed interest by the multinational pharmaceutical industry in bio- prospecting. But the lack of national legislation or effective international agreements on conservation of biodiversity has resulted in ‘destructive harvesting’ of MPs and massive depletion of biodiversity leading to more than 1000 MP species in threat category.

Analysis of the overall issues related to management of MPs indicates that major policy gaps exist in three areas of the management in the country. These are:

  • Policy gaps leading to MP resource depletion and handicapping resource augmentation.
  • Loopholes in existing policy framework in organizing trade of MPs and its by-products transparently.
  • Lack of organizational network in promoting Indian System of Medicine (ISM).
  • Issues about the Policy gaps in all the 3 major segments have been discussed in detail earlier.

The first two of these gaps have been discussed in detail above. For promotion of ISM, the active involvement of the Government of India is required in policy decisions, promotional strategy and investment in the ISM colleges and research institutes. Today more than 880 MP species are used in over 50,000 herbal formulations; the codified medical tradition has nearly 7 lakh registered medical practitioners, and 9000 registered and licensed manufacturing units, but the growth of the ISM sector has stagnated over the years. Teaching and research institutes, including the Central Council for Research in Ayurveda and Siddha, need to be strengthened with quality inputs. Public awareness of ISM needs to be created, and public and private partnership for building the domestic herbal industry encouraged. In addition the existing curriculum of the Medical Colleges in India should incorporate the uniqueness of the Herbal based medicines.

Finally, the export, import and other policies of the government have to be re-examined, and many legal, technical and regulatory gaps need to be plugged so that trade in MPs can be effectively monitored.

According to Raven (1990)56, “It is likely that a quarter of all species of Indian plants may be either extinct or on way to extinction within 25 years, and the great majority of the species present now are likely to be extinct within a century if proper conservation efforts are not in place and in time”

Given the extent of biodiversity in India, a major task of all the concerned including the policy planners has to be the identification and guided development of new products with large export potential. However, the fact that all MPs are not amenable for cultivation should not be ignored. Hence, conservation and cultivation must go together with prioritization for development of the MPs sector as a whole. Effective policy making for this sector calls for awareness raising, coordination and engagement of all the stakeholders.

The available flexibility under TRIPS provisions should be utilised fully for protecting the pool of our plant genetic resources and traditional knowledge in an effective way. It is equally important that the interests of the growers are well protected by supply of modern technologies, services and credit supplies and above all a good marketing system. The national policy should have effective provisions for ensuring equitable benefit sharing for all stakeholders. This would go a long way in fulfilling traditional health care needs and ensuring conservation and sustained utilisation of medicinal plant resources of the country. A system of modelling of sustainable development of MPs can be thought of based on perspective of problem and identification of stakeholders of MPs as shown in Figure – 7.1.

The protection and management of natural resources need support of various kinds – effective regulations, institutional mechanism and strong legislative support. Systematic short term and long term planning are equally necessary. It is high time for the custodians of these valuable resources, as well as the authorities of ISM and the policy makers for trade and environment, to revamp the existing policy framework and management strategies. Systematic, coordinated and concerted efforts by all the stakeholders to manage both the resources and the technology will ensure that the rich potential of the sector is realised in a sustainable manner.

As a member of the custodian family from Indian Forest Service it becomes mandatory on my part that the findings, research propositions and recommendations of the study are brought to the notice of the policy makers so as to evolve correct plan of actions and appropriate schedules for the conservation of seriously affected flora and thereby the sustainable benefits flow to my countrymen.

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