Medicinal and Aromatic Plants : Strategies and Technologies for Conservation. Overview Conservation Of Medicinal And Aromatic Plants In India


S. Natesh


Symposium 'State-of-the-Art Strategies and Technologies for Conservation of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants' held under the auspices of G-15 Gene Banks for Medicinal and Aromatic Plants, Kuala Lumpur Malaysia.




cryopreservation, ex situ: in situ, in vitro preservation, medicinal & aromatic plants


India is flonstically one of the richest countries in the world, ranking tenth on global basis and fourth among the Asian nations. It is, indeed, one of the world's megabiodiversity centres containing about 45.000 species of plants excluding aquatic life forms. A large number of these species are used for medicinal purposes. It is estimated that about 70% of India's population depend on plants for primary health care. The country has a rich heritage of traditional systems, as well as folk and tribal medicine, all largely based on plants. Besides, a number of species are also employed for making extracts for allopathic medicine and perfumery industry. Trade in herbal drugs is at present around Rs 23 billion (US$ 657 million) annually and expected to touch Rs 50 billion (US$ 1 43 billion) by the turn of the century. Over 90% of the plants used as sources of drugs are collected from the wild. In fact, less than 20 species are cultivated on a commercial basis. Overharvesting from forests, deforestation and other anthropogenic factors have already brought several species to the brink of extinction. Therefore, conservation of India's medicinal and aromatic plant (MAP) biodiversity assumes considerable significance. Both in situ and ex situ approaches have been adopted in this regard In situ measures include setting up of biosphere reserves, sanctuaries and national parks under the Wild Life (Protection) Act of 1972. Of course, these are not specifically directed towards MAP species but the conservation of the habitat as a whole. However, how MAP species have fared in the protected areas is not clear, as there has been no systematic investigation. Ex situ conservation includes botanical gardens, herbal gardens and arboreta, established mainly by Kings and Maharajas or the British regime, and sacred groves", i.e. green areas set aside by communities for deities. In addition, after the country's independence some work on seed and tissue preservation was also being undertaken on a small scale and in a scattered manner. More recently, the Department of Biotechnology, the nodal agency for the G-15 GEBMAP Project in India, has established a network of three national gene banks for medicinal and aromatic plants (NGBMAPs) at the Central Institute of Medicinal & Aromatic Plants. Lucknow; National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources. New Delhi; and Tropical Botanic Garden & Research Institute. Thiruvananthapuram respectively. This has not onlv given better focus to the MAP species but also helped in consolidating the ongoing efforts in the country. The three NGBs are equipped with state-of-the-art facilities to conserve MAPs through live field collections, seeds, pollen as well as in vitro- and cryopreservation. Over the last four years the banks have actively collected a number of accessions of MAP species. Besides, training of scientists and technicians is an integral part of their mandate. The training facilities are also open to other members of the G-15.