EDITORIAL: Preserve biodiversity

Nepal is rich in biodiversity and there are thousands of indigenous plants and plant resources which require thorough study and scientific documentation from the government agencies.

If these plants and plant resources are well researched and documented the country can benefit a lot from their commercial use, and the government can also claim patent rights on them.

Some of the plants such as Yarsagomaba, Panch Aunle, Jatamasi, Sugandha Kokila, chiraito (swertia), loth salla (taxus wallichina), to name a few, have been scientifically proven to possess tremendous medicinal properties.

Some of them are widely used for the cure of cancer, controlling hypertension and diabetes among other diseases.

These plant resources can also generate a lot of job opportunities at the local level, to earn foreign currency from the sale of their finished products in the world market and also contribute in Ayurveda as herbal medicines.

With a view to preserving and promoting these invaluable plants and plant resources, the government, through the Department of Plant Resources under the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation, has drafted a Bill to make legal provisions for the study, research, identification, protection, conservation and sustainable management of the indigenous plants.

All the plants to be found within the country shall be State property and no one would be permitted to claim ownership of such resources.

The Bill aims to prepare a scientific list of all the plants and protect and conserve them by developing botanical gardens at various places and even allowing people to cultivate them for commercial purposes.

The botanical gardens will act as seed banks for plants having commercial value.

The Bill has also envisaged setting up a Herbal Medicine Research Centre for the purpose of recommending commercial farming of herbal medicines. An 18-member council led by Minister of Forest and Soil Conservation will formulate policies and programmes for the development, promotion and preservation of indigenous plants.

Anyone who is found guilty for violating the law will be liable to face imprisonment of up to five years and a fine of Rs. 100,000 or both.

It is high time that the Legislature-Parliament passed the Bill at the earliest so that an effective policy and planning can be chalked out to preserve the invaluable plant resources that the country possesses.

At the same time the government should also strengthen the institutional capacity of all central departments of Botany and other related departments at various universities which can launch a scientific study and research on plant resources on a long term basis.

Once the Bill is passed into law, it is expected that the indigenous plants available within the country will be well documented and researched.

They would be well-preserved and the local community, in particular, would reap tremendous benefits from their scientific documentation and commercial farming.

It is also equally important that the local communities be involved in the preservation, protection and commercial farming of the indigenous plants that will help uplift the economic condition of people in rural areas.


Dolphins at risk

Dolphins, widely regarded as the most intelligent mammals after humans, are now on the verge of becoming extinct as their habitat is being widely disturbed and also due to ruthless hunting by humans.

These adorable mammals are endangered in Nepal too.

At one time the rivers of Nepal were home to a large number of this species. But this is no longer the case. The counting of dolphins in the rivers of Nepal is long overdue.

In fact, such a census has never been done in Nepal.

All we have is data that are not reliable and comprehensive as only location-oriented studies have been done in the past.

A survey conducted in 2014 found that 28 dolphins were found in the Saptakoshi, Karnali and Narayani rivers. The count would be done by the Department of National Park and Wildlife Conservation which would coordinate the campaign.

So far only sporadic studies of the dolphins in the rivers of Nepal have been conducted by I/NGOs. However, they are not integrated and scientific. The counting is supposed to be completed within one and a half months.

The dolphins would be counted in all their habitats in Nepal in their conservation bid.