The Himalayas with its varied agro-climatic conditions and diverse soil type are a natural habitat for variety of economically high-value medicinal plants used in alterative medicine systems like Ayurveda, Unani, Tibetan, Sidha and naturopathy. Increasing population pressure and awareness towards alternative medical treatment system are putting pressures on presently naturally growing medicinal plants. Also, lack of skilled manpower in the collection process of these delicate plants, large-scale banned illegal collection and the changes in the climate are adding to the damage, leading to the depletion and ultimately extinction of the medicinal plants. Preservation of these valuable natural resources thus becomes the need of the hour. Use of modern agro-technologies can be an effective solution to meet the increasing demand. The medicinal and aromatic plants give maximum yields if grown in the right agro- climatic zones. Local farmers can be involved, encouraged; supported and trained with technical know-how for initiating commercial cultivation of medicinal plants according to specific agro-climatic zones. The Public-private partnership model can also work best here.
Statistics from Dehradun-based NGO Herbal Research and Development Institute (HRDI), promoting medicinal and aromatic plants cultivation, are testimony of hidden potential of the sector. During 2003-04 to 2006-07, the organization achieved compound annual growth rate of more than 100 per cent in terms of revenue generation, number of persons employed, number of farmers benefited through its training programs, number of farmers involved in medicinal & aromatic farming, area under aromatic plants and quantity of essentials produced.
Agricultural diversification towards these plantations can increase farmers earnings, giving them the scope for further investment, governments
revenue can enhance and society can have easy access at affordable prices to the safer yet effective alternative medical treatment system. A smooth transition from allopathic dominated medical system to alternative medicine system may also be on the cards. Fast growing international market for medicinal and aromatic plants presents large-scale export opportunities. The area is productive and the atmosphere is conducive to grow the crop of all round benefits arising from the large-scale commercial cultivation of medicinal and aromatic plants. All that is needed is a well-coordinated and well thought and swiftly taken step with active governmental support.