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AYURVEDA GROWING: HIMACHAL PRADESH PLANS TO EXPLOIT MEDICINAL PLANTS
by Frank Morales from The Times of India
A: With global acceptance of Ayurveda as an alternative system of medicine picking up, there has been a steep rise in the demand for medicinal plants in the domestic and international markets, which the Himachal government intends exploiting to the maximum.

According to an official spokesman, this hill state is a virtual storehouse of some of the most wanted medicinal plants and herbs. ``We have something like 3,000 species of which almost 500 have medicinal properties,'' he added.

He said the estimated production of Ayurvedic drugs had risen from about Rs 100 crore in 1991 to almost Rs 4,000 crore and the demand was increasing. The state itself had witnessed an increase in the number of Ayurvedic pharmacies, which now stands at 80.

To cater to the demands of this growing industry, the state government had embarked upon a Rs 8.27-crore plan to establish ``vanaspati vanas'' (herbal forests) in collaboration with the Union Health Ministry, the spokesman added.

He said the state's agro-climatic conditions were ideal for growing medicinal plants. ``To fully exploit this potential, the state has been divided into four zones - the sub-tropical low hill Shivalik range, the mid-hill sub-temperate zone, the high hill temperate wet and the high hill temperate dry alpine zone,'' he added.

He said each zone had its own characteristic which was witnessed in the medicinal flora also. To utilise the optimum potential of the state's herbal wealth, the government had decided to establish a herbal garden in each of the four zones, he added.

The success of the herbal garden at Jogindernagar, spread over an area of 24 acres with over 200 species had acted as a catalyst. ``The garden is now being used for practical demonstrations and identification of medicinal plants for students and also those who intend to take up growing herbal plants as cash crops in their land holdings,'' the spokesman said.

Seeing the interest of students and potential growers in medicinal plants as also their huge potential in the state, the government has decided to set up herbal gardens at Neri in Hamirpur district, Sarivase in Rohru sub-division of Shimla district and Batseri in the Sangla valley of Kinnaur district. When complete, they will have hundreds of medicinal species in them.

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