Kashmir is known for its pristine beauty, long range of forests, meadows, snow-capped mountains and gushing streams passing through mountains and forests that are part of great Himalayas or Pir Panchal Range. Apart from different varieties of forests comprising Kail, Deodar and dozens of other plants.
The forests of Kashmir in its lap hold a hidden treasure which are known to few people, especially tribals and officials of forests department who trudge for days and nights in these deep woods identifying the plants with high medicinal value. If experts and researchers are to be believed there are around 1100 species or varieties of herbs, plants, flowers found in forests and mountains of J&K and many have high medicinal properties which are being extracted for its properties and medicinal value that fetch handsome amount outside state and even some plants or roots are exported by traders. However, over exploitation has threatened many plants and species which could see extinction of these plants and herbs forever. However, thanks to some officials of the forest department who are trying to conserve these plants at Khamoe Rafiabad village in the foothills of vast Peer Panchal forests.
“We have a lot of species of plants and flowers in our forests. Some are good with high medicinal value. Unfortunately, the over exploitation of plants, herbs and roots have put stress on these valuable trees and plants which need to be preserved,” said a senior associate professor of Botany at Kashmir University. “Forest department has started efforts that are a welcome step and need to be appreciated.”
Efforts are underway to conserve the herbal species of different types of plants, herbs and flowers. The forest department has taken a lead by setting up a park on 18 hectares of land amid the pine forests, at an altitude of 1950 metres.
Surrounded by Kail and Deodar trees, the park was established three years ago and is now a place where over 70000 plants are being grown in polybags and later distributed among colleges, universities and various government departments.
“This is a different park where we have planted different types of medicinal plants, herbs and flowers which grow in the forests,” said Mansoor Ahmad Block, Forest Officer.
For many this is the first step towards conservation of species, besides the park has all the potential to become a major tourism attraction.
Ahmad said the main aim of this garden is to conserve the different plant species with herbal and the medicinal properties. “Since we have been moving around and seen the decline of medicinal and herbal plants in our forests so it was necessary to setup a place where we can do plantation of these rare species which are threatened in the forests due to several issues,” he said adding that the other purpose of this park is to provide information about plants and herbs to researchers, teachers and students who come from different parts of Kashmir. “Even the villagers come here and seek information about herbs and plants with rich medicinal properties.
“We have mainly those species that can be found in our forests easily and are endangered or those plants which have been over exploited by the people who knew about the value of these plants.”
He said a plant named Saussuera cost or (Kuth) which is an endangered species in our forests has been grown here in poly bags…”Now we have thousands of such plants and other species as well which are also endangered. This will help in conservation of these species as well.”
The forest department is also planning to establish a big rose park adjacent to herbal park on vacant forest land.
“Once fully developed, the herbal park and rose park could become one of the different tourist spots due to its virgin location and perfect altitude,” a senior forest officer said, adding that work is already in progress.
Local villagers are upbeat about this park and have urged the tourism department to use the efforts to turn the area as a new tourist destination. “This park made our new generation aware about rich plants and vegetables found in our forests. I have been going to forests for years but couldn’t identify many plants. This is good for our entire area. Even a rose park with different species is also coming up in the park’s vicinity that could bring a lot of tourists to our remote village,” said a local villager who frequently visits the park. He hoped after forest department, the tourism authorities will also undertake a slew of projects in this remote but beautiful place. “The herbal park will soon become another landmark of this place.”