An Analysis upon Various Challenges and Possibilities in the Development of Sustainable Medicinal Plant Resources in India | Original Article
The use of medicinal plants is as old as human civilization. About 1,100 plants species are frequently used in Indian system of healthcare and medicines for preparation of ayurvedic, unani and homeopathic drugs. The economic value and future potential of the biological resources of a country are getting redefined in the wake of the newly emerging international trade regulations from a system, held over countries, where these resources were viewed as global heritages, they are now being treated as invaluable reserves for the future of the country with an untapped economic potential. Unlike that for physical resources, we do not have yet a system of defining 'biological resource holdings' of a country and consequently there is a greater chance of these resources leaking out to other countries even before their potentiality is realized by the host countries. Our country is among 12 leading biodiversity centres of the world with 45,000 plant species in 16 agroclimatic and 10 vegetative zones. We have 18,000 flowering plants, 44% of which are of medicinal significance. These medicinal plants are the richest resource of our traditional medicines, phytopharmaceuticals, modern allopathic drugs, household remedies and nutraceuticals. The use of phytopharmaceuticals is increasing at the rate of 15 percent annually. Global market is booming for MAPs and their products. Our contributions in the world market are not significant. In recent years the demand for medicinal and aromatic plants has grown rapidly because of accelerated local, national and international interest, the latter notably from Western pharmaceutical industry. At present, resource-poor people in India’s poorest state Uttaranchal collect plants from the wild in order to complement their meagre incomes. Due to continued collection and increasing market demand, numerous plant species are threatened with extinction. For rational and regulated collection, strong local communities or strict governmental control measures are necessary. High risks, transaction costs and lack of trust among chain actors prevent smallholder producers from taking up cultivation of medicinal plants. Public–private collaboration is suggested as a way of reducing these constraints and to secure market access to small producers. Such collaboration can provide a promising mechanism for establishing the conditions for the establishment of supply chains in the initial stages of development.