Endangered Medicinal Herb Exploited In Arunachal's Protected Areas
Sanctuary’s Mud On Boots Project Leader Anoko Mega, reports illegal extraction and trading of a medicinal herb from protected areas in Arunachal Pradesh.
Photo: Anoko Mega
Paris polyphylla, locally known as Satuwa in parts of Arunachal Pradesh, is a medicinal herb that grows under the canopy of moist temperate forests. Known for its anti-cancer, anti-microbial, anti-oxidant, and anti-tumor properties, there has been an increasing demand for the herb in the Indian and international market over the last decade. In India it is found in the state of Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Uttarakhand. Unfortunately, according to experts, the over exploitation and illegal trade of this species is pushing it towards extinction.
An informal survey conducted by Mud on Boots Project Leader Anoko Mega in and around the Dibang Wildlife Sanctuary and Mehao Wildlife Sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh has revealed that this herb is being illegally extracted from these Protected Areas. According to Anoko, Paris polyphylla has a high market price, and locals are hiring external labour from other states to harvest the plant for them. This influx of people who are illegaly entering the sanctuaries is disturbing wild habitat and impacting wild populations of the herb.
Based on a few research surveys, it is known that the rhizomes of P. polyphylla are illegally traded at either the local or regional level through dalaals (middle men) who then export it internationally. The rhizomes obtained from the Dibang and Lower Dibang Valley district are traded in Tinsukia or Dibrugarh via Roing. Most of the rhizomes are traded into Myanmar and other South East Asian countries ( A. Paul 2015).
In 2016, the state police arrested four men and seized 170 kg. of illegally extracted P. polyphylla from them. While the Forest Department is yet to take concerted measures to curb the illegal harvesting of the herb, other obstacles to its conservation have also arisen. According to Ipra Mekola, a member of the Arunachal Pradesh State Wildlife board,“ A few traders now carry a permit from the State Agriculture Department, which makes it more difficult for the police to take action on the illegal trade of P. polyphylla”.
Given the precarious status of Paris polyphylla, it is crucial that the Forest Department and State Biodiversity Board pay immediate attention to its conservation. An effort should be made to educate local communities on the importance of plant conservation and to develop a sustainable agroforestry program for P. polyphylla cultivation with community participation, thus reducing pressure on forest areas and safeguarding the Protected Areas of the state. Sanctuary’s Mud on Boots Project Coordinator Maitreyee Mujumdar has alerted the concerned state authorities on this issue and requested immediate intervention.