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Govt wakes up over disturbance of ecosystem, frames Bio Diversity Council in J&K

Suhail Khan

SRINAGAR, Sep 19: Waking up to disturbance of ecosystem, Jammu and Kashmir administration has framed Bio Diversity Council for preservation of flora and fauna.

Kashmir is a rich resource of medicinal plants, which are used in aromatherapy and cosmetics as well as medical treatments.

Several medicinal and aromatic plant species are at the verge of extinction.

Earlier in 2005, the J&K government had imposed a ban on the extraction of medicinal plants, fearing extinction of some species. However in 2013, J&K Government lifted ban on the extraction of several medicinal plants and other minor forest produce from the forest areas.

Jammu and Kashmir has its forest cover stretching over 23,241 square kilometers, which is 10.46 per cent of its total geographical area of 1,01,387 square kilometers.

However, over one lakh kanals of forest area has been encroached in Kashmir.

One of the members of the Bio Diversity Council gave varied reasons for reduction of medicinal plants. “Smuggle is not a main factor. Construction of roads, pollution, and stress on habitat are main reasons that we are losing our medicinal plants, which need to be preserved,” he told news agency Kashmir Indepth News Service.

On September 3, this year, government framed 10 members Bio Diversity Council for Union Territory Jammu and Kashmir, which is headed by J&K Principal Chief Conservator of Forests.

Earlier, Jammu and Kashmir had Bio Diversity Board which was framed in 2015 but remained non functional.

As per the Biological Diversity Act, 2002, State Biodiversity Boards (SBBs) are to be established under Section 22 of the Act. Accordingly, SBBs were established. However, Jammu and Kashmir did not make Bio Diversity Board as this Act was not directly applicable to erstwhile state because of the special status under Article 370. Then it took J&K over a decade to frame rules.  Eventually it made Bio Diversity Board in 2015 for a period of three years.

The Bio Diversity Board which is now Bio Diversity Council in Union Territory has to advise the government on matters relating to conservation of biodiversity, sustainable use of its components and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of utilization of biological resources.

As per the J&K Biological Diversity Rules, 2015, the State Biodiversity Board is required to advise the Government on any matter concerning conservation of biological diversity, sustainable use of its components; commission studies and sponsor investigations and research.

An official said the government would also provide training, awareness camps to forest dwellers to create nurseries in collaboration with J&K State Forest Research Institute, he said adding that the government needs to involve the locals so that the natural habitat is not disturbed and smuggling is stopped.

He said Forest Department in collaboration with State Medical Board shall create nurseries of medicinal plants so that “natural habitat is preserved”.

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