By: DD Sharma
Rekong Peo: A little known village in Kinnaur is leading the state in cultivation of medicinal plants. At least seventeen species of medicinal plants are being cultivated successfully in a forest nursery at Nichar here, which has now also raised expectations among local people and has heralded a new chapter of enhanced livelihood in the cold temperate zone. And all this has become possible due to the tireless efforts of two persons – range officer Roshan Lal Dhangal and forest guard Udham Singh. Following their hard work, cultivation of medicinal plants is fast emerging as an alternative livelihood option in the higher reaches here.
Many medicinal plants grow naturally in the higher reaches of our state, and local people have for ages been collecting them either for their personal use or to earn a livelihood. But, over the years, overexploitation and unscientific harvesting led to many of these plants becoming extinct or hard to find. Realising this fact, the forest department felt an urgent need for conservation of these medicinal plants and thus started programmes for creating public awareness regarding cultivation practices on private land. Under this programme, medicinal plants were grown in government nurseries and then distributed among people for further cultivation. But the task has not been easy for the officials as there is death of persons who have knowledge about these plants.
But Roshan Lal Dhangal and Udham Singh have been able to locate and grow some very rare herbs with medicinal properties, which otherwise were no longer being used in even traditional medicines because of non-availabililiy. “Since we knew the area, we were in a position to trek around in search of these herbs,” said Roshan Lal. The nursery at Nichar is spread over an area of one-and-a-half hectares, wherein 16,000 saplings of medicinal plants and one lakh saplings of broadleaves and coniferous plants have been raised. And the whole credit for success of this experimental medicinal plants nursery goes to the strenuous efforts put in by Roshan Lal and Udham Singh in 2003-2004.
Some extremely valuable medicinal plants like Salam panja, Bankakri, Patish and Kurru etc. have been grown here successfully, which not promise to provide livelihood opportunities to people living in the cold temperate areas. The details of medicinal plants used in Ayurvedic preparations that are being cultivated in this nursery is as follows: Salam panja, Van kakkari, Mohra, Chukhari, Buchbare, Rattan jot, Kuddu, Salam misari, Chora, Patish, Kuth, Dhatura, Ban ajvayan, Pashan Bhed, Safed musali, Dhoop and Singani mingan,etc.
These plants also grow naturally in the temperate zone of Himalayas and slopes of rocky portions of valleys. Different species of these medicinal plants can be easily cultivated at an altitude ranging from 2,500 meters to 4,800 meters above mean sea level in Kinnaur, Chamba, Kullu, Shimla, Lahaul & Spiti and Kangra.
Another factor that favours cultivation of these plans is that during summer season there is a trend in tribal areas to shift to temporary houses called dogaris, dhars, tappris, ete, located at higher altitudes where climatic conditions are extremely favorable for medicinal plant cultivation. Now these tribals can add to their income by growing such medicinal plants while they are up in the mountains with their animals.