Example of progress

The idea of handing over 22 Community Biodiversity Registers (CBR), which list the herbs and information about them, to concerned groups in 10 districts for conservation at the local level will take the concept of sustainable development a step forward. The experiment in community forestry has worked wonders for biodiversity conservation in the country. The new endeavour should prove useful to the locals as herbs with wide ranging medicinal value will open opportunities for them. At 0.1 per cent of the world’s total land surface, it has about 118 different types of ecosystem and some 1800 species of herbs all over the country. The breadth of the scope this sheer numerical variety offers by way of employment and income generation at the local level is enormous. It is a different matter that lack of robust herbal processing mechanisms at home have prevented the society from deriving added benefits from such an enterprise.

The extraordinary effort made by the sponsors of the project — the locals, traditional healers, resource persons and others — shows the successful side of the venture. The CBRs also have been considered a potential referral template for others outside the 22 districts where handover is being contemplated. An acceptable methodology has been identified and that should simplify similar work in the future. But the drive will have to gradually extend to all parts of the country. The handover of the CBRs comes at a time when the Ayurvedic institutions are expected to get a shot in the arm following reports of new funds in the pipeline

for a centre for Ayurved research and development. As it is, the community forest users’ groups have been instrumental in preparing the document and their continued participation remains at the centre of the project’s success.

It is to be acknowledged that compiling a report of this kind in remote districts is tough given the practical difficulties workers face in the field. The effects of global warming, human interference, overgrazing etc. are gradually pushing the priceless biodiversity towards extinction. This highlights the urgency to save biodiversity. Beyond conservation, the forces of globalisation pose a challenge to the use and sale of herbal commodities. Post WTO-accession, issues of intellectual property rights and patent registration for biodiversity products are no less important than any other issue, for instance trade. Is Nepal prepared to tackle market forces emerging from countries with stronger legislation and scientific backup to patent and market a biodiversity product? The focus, therefore, will have to be on strengthening one’s position from the perspective of biodiversity. A CBR can be the soil on which other technicalities of biodiversity can take root.