| Flower power |
Imphal, July 14: The country’s first gene bank for orchids opened at Hengbung of Senapati district today to conserve orchids in the country.
T. Ramasami, the secretary of the science and technology ministry, opened the Centre for Orchid Gene Conservation of the eastern Himalayan region at the complex of Krishi Vigyan Kendra run by an NGO, Foundation for Environment and Economic Development Services (FEEDS), nearly 55km from Imphal.
The centre is set up across 250 hectares of hilly land and includes an ultra-modern laboratory, an orchidarium and a field gene bank.
Initially, it plans to collect all the orchids found in the eastern Himalayan region and then all the orchids found in India.
Funded by the Union science and technology ministry, the main purpose of the centre is to conserve orchids and encourage households to cultivate orchids and also provide facilities for research.
India has 1,600 recorded varieties of orchids having ornamental and medicinal value.
Of these, the eastern Himalayan region has 1,000 species.
Rajkumar Kishor, a scientist of the gene centre, said this was the first orchid gene bank in the country.
In the Northeast, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim are home to many orchid species.
Manipur alone has 286 varieties and experts said if a survey was conducted, Manipur could have nearly 500 species.
The newly opened bank has 230 species in its orchidarium and another 100 species in its field bank.
Experts said many orchid species with medicinal values were on the verge of extinction because of largescale felling of trees in the Northeast. They said people were not aware of the importance of orchids.
“During our recent survey, particularly in Ukhrul and Senapati districts, we discovered 25 new varieties, which are not known earlier in India. We are planning to conduct more surveys to discover all the orchid varieties in Manipur,” S.P. Vij, the principal investigator of the gene bank, said.
Haokholet Kipgen, the president of the NGO, said orchids had a huge commercial potential.
“Several species are being illegally sent across the border from Manipur. Along the Manipur-Myanmar border, 1kg of therapeutic orchid is sold for Rs 300 to Rs 600. In eastern China it is sold at $15,000,” Kipgen said.
Stating that a myriad problems in the Northeast were caused by lack of economic development, Ramasami said the bank should not only be a centre of excellence but also a centre of relevance.
“Connect the centre with the economic activities of the people so that the Centre could be a part of the solution to all the problems in the region,” he said.
Impressed by the centre, S.N. Puri, vice-chancellor of Central Agriculture University, Imphal, said his university would send post-graduate students to this centre for research.