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Green potion for economy

July 8: Karbi Anglong district is spading its way to become a herbal paradise and cash in on the global obsession with alternative medicine.

Black pepper for indigestion, bay leaf for cold and aloe vera for infection.

Call it word-of-mouth remedies, folk medication or what you will, but the “hedge-grow medicine” has survived contemptuous barbs of allopathic practitioners for ages.

With glitzy spas promising exotic herbal messages and treatments making good money in some back-of-the-beyond locales, Karbi Anglong, with its sprawling forests, has decided to transform itself into a herbal tourism hotspot.

The district administration has taken up a mega project for scientific study, analysis and preservation of the natural medicinal resources, which the local tribes popularly use.

The project includes building herbal gardens, setting up a laboratory and institutions for study and research on herbs and shrubs.

A source in the district administration said the project was likely to get financial and technical approval from Dispur soon and preliminary work will begin by the end of this year.

The forests of the hill district are one of the richest sources of medicinal plants in the entire Northeast.

The tribal population living in villages on the fringes on the forest relies on these herbs for treating common ailments.

The local autonomous council, in fact, recently declared Karbi Anglong a “herbal district”.

The three components of the “herbal district” project comprised building gardens, medicinal interpretation centres with support from local NGOs and ensuring scientific recognition of the traditional medicinal practices of the tribes.

Deputy commissioner M. Angamuthu said initially there would be a detailed exploration of medicinal plants available in the hill district, followed by a systematic analysis on their use.

“After categorisation and documentation of the plants, identification of right plants for the right disease would be done. Promotion and production of identified plants will follow. Intellectual property rights issues will then be sorted out,” Angamuthu said.

“Endangered species, which are about to become extinct from the jungles of Karbi Anglong, will be grown in the gardens,” he said.

Initiatives to preserve the medicinal resources of Karbi Anglong began two years ago after the district autonomous council approved the setting up of the first medicinal garden with financial and technical assistance from the National Medicinal Plants Board.

In 2007, divisional forest officer (working plan) Jatindra Sarma compiled a book listing the herbal medicinal resources of Karbi Anglong.

“Our first garden on an 18-hectare land is just 5km from the district headquarters in Diphu, built with Rs 30 lakh. Recently, we moved New Delhi for two more gardens — one in Diphu and the other in Hamren,” said DFO (silviculture) Nilamoni Maral.

A team of National Medicinal Plants Board will visit the hill district soon to assess the feasibility of the two proposed gardens.

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