Education and the Conservation of Threatened Plants

28 September 2010 | News story

CEC member Deepika Mishra is engaged in efforts to conserve the valuable plant biodiversity of Rajasthan state of India by running awareness programs and exploring biotechnological approaches.

Medicinal plants are sources of important therapeutic aid for alleviating human ailments. With increasing realization of the health hazards and toxicity associated with the indiscriminate use of synthetic drugs and antibiotics, interest in the use of plants and plant-based drugs has revived throughout the world. Most of the pharmaceutical industries are highly dependent on wild populations of plants for the supply of raw materials for extraction of medicinally important compounds. Lack of proper cultivation practices, destruction of plant habitats and the illegal and indiscriminate collection of plants from these habitats have contributed to the endangerment of medicinal plants.

During my undergraduate studies, I was highly inspired by the Wangari Maathai (noble laureate and leader of ‘Green Belt Movement’ at Kenya). I decided to devote my life for the conservation of plants, which are at the verge of extinction. I was very sad to know that the degree of the threat to natural populations of medicinal plants is has increasing day-by-day because more than 90% of the plant raw material for the herbal industries in India is drawn from natural habitats. Therefore, after completing the Masters in Biology, I started plant conservation work from my village ‘Kishangarh’ (Rajasthan). I run the education awareness programs among the local people to aware them about the conservation and importance of locally available threatened plant species. Really, it was great experience for me and I received the favourable from the rural communities.

Advanced biotechnological methods of culturing plant cells and tissues provide new means of rapid propagation and conservation of valuable, rare, and endangered medicinal plants. In vitro cell and tissue culture methodology is envisaged as a mean for germplasm conservation to ensure the survival of endangered plants, rapid mass propagation for large-scale revegetation, and for genetic manipulation studiesPresently I am working to develop the in vitro protocols for the propagation of valuable plant species like Phyllanthus anarus, Tylophora indica etc. I feel that biotechnologists, foresters and policy-makers should work in collaboration for achieve the conservation task in true sense.