Envis Centre, Ministry of Environment & Forest, Govt. of India

Printed Date: Saturday, April 13, 2024

The Withering Ghats





Rapid expansion of habitat deep into the fragile biodiversity of the Western Ghats and extension of tea, coffee, cardamom and rubber plantations into dense humid forest regions have taken a heavy toll on the flora and fauna, including a variety of aromatic plants, and the pristine forest cover of a delicate ecosystem.


This has been the finding of two Bengalurubased scientists — Kavitha Sagar, a UGC post doctoral fellow in the Botanical Garden division of the University of Agricultural Sciences, and R R Rao, a well-known environmental scientist and former associate professor at the North Eastern Hill University in Shillong, Meghalaya.

The serious state of affairs came to light in course of their extensive survey, as part of a joint study on the wild aromatic plants of the region. The duo pointed out that the Western Ghats had already lost more than 90 per cent of original forest cover. Traditional knowledge of medicinal and aromatic plants has become vulnerable and is being lost faster than any other indigenous intellectual heritage, they said.

Besides the diversity of aromatic species, the joint study also highlights the analysis of major chemical compounds and percentage of essential oils in different populations of some important shortlisted wild aromatic plant species such as Ocimum geatissisinum (African basil), Toddalia asiatica (orange climber), Gaultheria fragrantissima (Indian wintergreen), Hyptis suaveolens (American mint),Chloroxylon swietenia (East Indian satin wood) and a few others.

Raising a question mark over the fate of the aromatic plants due to shrinking forest space, Sagar says there is an urgent need of ex situ (removing species from its natural setting) conservatories to protect nearly 300 species. Many are yet to be studied and their properties chemically analysed and registered for future uses.

Scientific analyses of many of these aromatic plants have revealed that these plants are not only powerful germicides but also have anti-bacterial properties. The commercial value of these plants, having wide-ranging uses for perfumery and food flavouring industries, adds to their importance as a great source of revenue generation.

"A large quantity of essential oils of aromatic plants is utilised by the cosmetics, toiletries and allied industries. Commercially well established aromatic species can yield up to 62 types of essential oils for the international trade," says Rao.

Both Rao and Sagar rue that conservation of aromatic species has remained neglected, unlike that of medicinal plants. "As a majority of aromatic species are confined to roadsides and exposed areas, the existing protected area network of forests of the region may not protect all the wild aromatic species. The spread of alien weeds has specially taken a heavy toll. We may have to adopt strategies that focus on the conservation of wild aromatic species," the study says.



Source: http://www.punemirror.in/news/india/The-Withering-Ghats/articleshow/49571748.cms