Despite government ban, the illegal extraction of medicinal plants goes unabated at many places in the Valley.
The extraction threatens the medicinal herbs at Kupwara, Gurez, Pahalgam, Gulmarg, Tangmarg, Pir Panchal and other parts of the state as a result state is losing crores of rupees at the hand of the smugglers.
Sources said in Kupwara green belt which is rich in Aconitum (Pitrees), smugglers are looting this precious medicinal herb by uprooting it and transporting to the outside dealers.
“Kupwara forests are considered rich in herbs like Aconitum but over the years it is diminishing at fast rate as the smugglers are uprooting this herb. Smuggling of medicinal herbs like “Pitrees” (aconitum roots), “Trepatri”, and seeds of Coniferous “Deodar” and “Kail” (Pine) are thriving in different parts of the district due to which the smugglers are making quick bucks,” they said.
These smugglers are involving the locals especially people belonging to the Gujjar and Bakarwaal community in the extraction of this herb.
The illegal trade of this herb is being checked under Sections 379, 6, section 26 of the Forest Act.
The forests of famed Gulmarg are also has many precious herbs which are also being illegally traded to different destinations.
Sources said that ‘Trillium’ herb apart from several species of the Dicotyledonus is being illegally extracted from the forest.
Similarly in Dodhpatri, Dara apart from the forests of Jammu region including Badarwah, the smuggling of medicinal plants is also at peak.
An official in the Forest Department said, most of the medicinal herbs are being illegally transported to other places like China, Japan, Chandigarh, New Delhi and other states where scores of pharmaceutical companies flourish.
He said the forests of Kashmir have seen massive extraction and smuggling of these herbs since last two decades.
Experts believe that there is no natural phenomenon for the declining medicinal plants but it happens due to human intervention and extraction of the species in higher altitudes.
They said there are thousands of species of herbs which are vanishing from the hilly areas of the state.
Professor at Department of Botany at Kashmir University, Professor Anzar Khuroo, said herbs which are of high medicinal value have been exploited in a huge quantity with no efforts of their regeneration.
"The most important medicinal plants are declining in the state especially in the hilly areas. The forests of Kashmir have seen massive extraction and smuggling of these herbs since last two decades," he said.
However, Research Officer at the Regional Research Institute of Unani Medicine, University of Kashmir, Dr Tariq Ahmad Bhat, said that the Department is working on the conservation of the plants.
“We get the saplings from agro-climatic zones and grow them in the temperate climatic condition. During surveys, we got to know that many medicinal plants are decreasing at the alarming rate,” he said.
Bhat said, "We have a treasure of medicinal plants in the valley but they are being exploited. Extraction of the species in higher altitudes, wild crafting and habitat destructions, invasion of other weeds and over exploitation are the reason behind the decline of every medicinal herb. "
As per the department's research, at least 140 medicinal plants are now fast vanishing due to unchecked exploitation, habitat loss and wild crafting.
He said the illegal extraction is done by locals, which are hired by the pharmaceutical companies.
Earlier, the state government was likely to take action against the illegal extraction of the precious medicinal herbs from valley forests but till now nothing has happened.
As per the sources, the state government wanted to recover the forest land from encroachers, then the forest department would focus to curb the illegal extraction of medicinal herbs.
“Identification of the areas where these endangered medicinal herbs are found and later every step will be taken to preserve it. The production of the medicinal herbs will be increased by adopting several measures,” they said.
As per reports over 100 hectares of land was to be covered in Jammu and Kashmir during the first phase of implementation of Arogaya Gram Yojana for cultivation of medicinal and aromatic plants with the active participation of farmer.
The ban on extraction of plant species was imposed in 2005 after experts suggested to the government that most of the herbs and other minor forest produce were at the verge of “extinction”.