HIMALAYAN NEWS SERVICE
KATHMANDU: Many rare endangered plant species are on the verge of extinction due to lack of proper conservation and delay in collecting seeds from the Himalayan region, according to NAST officials.
Although the government had established Himalayan Seed bank, a genetic resource centre on the premises of Nepal Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) with a whopping investment of Rs 70 million in a bid to conserve rare and near-extinct plants, there is not a single seed in the bank, said NAST Vice Chancellor Surendra Raj Kafle.
According to NAST, the seed bank is equipped with refrigerators, uninterrupted power supply, and all other necessary equipment for storage.
“We haven’t been able to store any seed as the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation (MoFSC) is yet to give permission to collect the seeds,” said Vice Chancellor Kafle, adding that they were already two weeks behind in collecting the seeds.
The period between October 15 to November 15 is considered an appropriate time for collecting seeds from the Himalayan region, he said.
As per existing laws, the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation (MoFSC) should give permission to collect seeds from different parts of the country.
On October 5, the autonomous NAST, in line with the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, had written to MoFSC seeking permission to collect seeds from the Sagarmatha National Park.
On November 22, the Department of National Park and Wildlife Conservation under the MoFSC granted NAST the permission to collect seeds between November 25 to December 8.
Despite the delay, a nine-member team headed by Deepa Dhital left for the Himalayan region a week ago.
“I don’t think we will be able to collect more than 20 per cent of the seeds this late season,” said Prof Kafle adding that the concerned ministry had not coordinated with the government body with regard to collection of seeds.
Meanwhile, MoFSC Spokesperson Krishna Prasad Acharya said they were not against allowing the government body to collect seeds of rare species.
“As the law forbids taking seeds abroad, the permission might have been delayed due to doubts that the seeds may be sent to other countries,” he said, adding that there was no problem with using the seeds internally and for study purposes.”
The centre, with state-of-the-art equipment, can store up to 50,000 samples of valuable seeds if it operates on full capacity.
Currently, there are 10,781 samples of about 90 species of agricultural plants in the country.
The samples, however, need to be processed before they are transferred to the deep freezers that are installed at the centre.
While for short-term preservation, -10 degrees Celsius with 40 per cent humidity is enough, for long-term preservation, the temperature has to be maintained at -30 degrees Celsius.