India’s natural forests are home to about 8000 medicinal plants that form the primary source of health care for 60-80% of the country’s population, particularly the rural poor. However, efforts aimed at equitable use of these resources are largely inadequate and harvesting remains unsustainable. India has 15 Agroclimatic zones and 17000-18000 species of flowering plants of which 6000-7000 are estimated to have medicinal usage in folk and documented systems of medicine, like Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani and Homoeopathy. About 960 species of medicinal plants are estimated to be in trade of which 178 species have annual consumption levels in excess of 100 metric tons.
Medicinal plants are not only a major resource base for the traditional medicine & herbal industry but also provide livelihood and health security to a large segment of Indian population. The domestic trade of the AYUSH industry is of the order of Rs. 80 to 90 billion (1US$ = Rs.50). The Indian medicinal plants and their products also account of exports in the range of Rs. 10 billion.
There is global resurgence in traditional and alternative health care systems resulting in world herbal trade which stands at US$ 120 billion and is expected to reach US$ 7 trillion by 2050. Indian share in the world trade, at present is quite low.
The State of Uttarakhand
The State of Uttarakhand in north west India was carved out from the state of Uttar Pradesh by separating the predominately hill region on 9th Nov, 2000. The state consists of 13 districts with total geographic area of 53,483 sq.km. Uttarakhand has extensive forest cover (about 66% of its geographical area). Eight forest types occur in the state. The state has nearly 700 species of medicinal plants used in traditional system of medicine. The state also has a wealth of traditional knowledge associated with the use of these plants.
The State Forest Department manages approximately 70% of the forest area in the state. These forests are managed as per Working Plans that provide guidelines for ecological and sustainable exploitation. Some forests areas are also managed by local communities through Van Panchayats. Functioning of the Van Panchayats in Uttarakhand is guided by Uttaranchal Panchayati Forest Rules, 2001 as amended in 2005. Presently, there are 12,089 Van Panchayats managing 5,241 sq. km. of forests in Uttarakhand.