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Bio-resources As Economic Growth Of North-East India: With Special Reference To Manipur

Biological diversity cures our ills. It also feeds us and provides raw materials for industry’ – WWF International

The North-East India (located between 87°32’E to 97°52’E latitude and 21° 34′ N to 29°50’N latitude) is a genetic treasure house of plant, animal and microbial resources. The region forms a distinctive part of the Indo-Burma Hotspot which ranks the 6th among the 25 biodiversity hotspots of the world and is a prime one among the two identified for the Indian sub-continent. The region also falls in the bio-geographic tri-junction of the Indian, the Himalaya and the oriental landmass. This active centre of speciation is a centre of gene diversity of domesticated crops and a secondary centre for several economically important plant and animal species.

The Indo-Burma Hotspot is home to 13,500 plant species (2.3% of the global agencies) of which 7000 are endemics and 2,185 vertebrates (1.9 % of the global species) of which 528 are endemics. Avian fauna is represented by 1,170 species with 140 as endemics. Mammalian diversity constitutes 329 species with 73 endemics. The species richness in terms of numbers of reptiles and amphibians are 484 and 202 with 201 and 114 endemics respectively.

It may be noted that only in Manipur the known biodiversity includes 4000 angiospermic plants, 430 medicinal plants 34 species of edible fungi, 500 orchids, 55 species of bamboo, 40 endemic rice cultivars, 160 fish species, 21 migratory aquatic birds and multitude of low and high altitude butterflies.

Manipur: Biodiversity Status

Area     :           22,327 sq. km. (91.75% hills, 8.25% valley)

Rainfall  :           131 cms per year

Altitude:            50 – 3,300 meters above MSL

–           4000 Angiospermic plants

–           430 Medicinal plants

–           500 Orchids

–           55 Bamboo species

–           40 Endemic rice cultivars

–           160 Fish species

–           21 Migratory aquatic birds

–           20 Medicinal Zingiberates

–           Multitudes of low/high altitude butterflies.

Since the people in the North-East India is absence of Industrial infrastructure largely depend on bio-resources for their livelihood, the degree of threat  to the original biota of the Indo-Burma Hotspot is probably the highest among the hotspots in the World. In other words, the Indo-Burma region is a unique biogeographic zone belonging to the critical eco-region.

Gene Pools for Economic Growth

The gene pools of the N.E. Region are invaluable genetic resources and can be put to use for the economic growth of this region in particular and to the nation in general. Biotechnological interventions are needed for conservation and sustainable uses of the bio-resources. In this regard, the coming National Institute of Bio-resources and Sustainable Development, Manipur will play a great role. The salient features of which the bio-resources may play as a component in economic growth of the N.E. Region are:

1.   Medicinal Plants:

Realizing the great role of traditional medicine in global health-care program especially in the developing countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) gave (1976) a formal recognition to traditional medicine, and emphasized for the global resources into medicinal herbs. The Belem Declaration (1988) the Chiang Mai Declaration (1988) and the Bangalore Declaration (1998) also drew the attention of the United Nations, its agencies and Member States, other international agencies and their members and NGOs to the vital importance of medicinal health care, and the significant economic value of the medicinal plants. The North-Eastern India is blessed with nature’s bounty as regards the wealth of industrially potential plants. From early periods of human civilization in this region, many of these plants have been using as different species of plants for treating different types of ailments. Modernization of the traditional knowledge and use of the medicinal plants sustainably through biotechnological interventions will ensure the economic prosperity of the region.

2.   Orchids:

Orchids are accepted to be the world’s most exotic and fascinating flowers. The unmatched ornamental value of Orchids accounts for multi-million dollar cut flower industries in several countries like Europe, America, Japan, etc. Several South-East countries, viz., Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and Philippines have also resorted to orchid growing. North – Eastern Region with its diverse climatic condition and topography is identified as the most potential areas for orchid cultivation. Out of the 1,200 species, fewer than 160 genera are found in India. The region grows more then 650 species of which Manipur grows about 500 of which 472 have been identified. The need of the hour is to bring awareness, popularization, conservation, propagation and commercialization of orchids so as to convert the existing national orchid wealth into rewarding resources.

3.   Wood Based Industries:

Though the N.E Region in general and Manipur in particular have got vast forest resources, there are no wood-based industries upto the desired mark. Only the saw-mill industry (200 in Manipur), plywood factory (1 in Manipur) and bamboo chipping plant (1 in Jiribam, Manipur) are working in the State. In addition, some cane and bamboo industries are supplementing the State’s income. There is potential of setting up of wood based industries including paper industry (in Manipur) by use of local pine (pinus Khasya) as raw material.

4.   Non-Wood Forest Products:

In the last decade, Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations had taken keen interest in the resource assessment of non-wood forest products (NWFPs) N.E. Region is blessed with vast resources of non-wood forest products. Innumerable essential oils, medicinal and aromatic plants, useful as dye, resin, etc. occur in the forests which are of commercial importance.

5.   Eco-Tourism:

Development of Tourism based on the natural resources of the place is known as ‘Eco-Tourism’. The N.E. Region with its distinct culture and geographical entity still remains in many respects an ‘Undiscovered Tourists Paradise’. There is a great scope for development of ‘Eco-Tourism’ in the N.E. Region because of the scenic beauty it offers and the human potential it has got for generating employment. If Government could give inner-line permit then, the potential eco-tourism centers like Shiroy Range (due to Siroy Lily). Dzuko Valley (due to Dzuko Lily), Loktak lake particularly Keibul Lamjao National Park (due to Sangai), etc. could attract a large number of foreign tourists and can earn a lot.

6.   Horticultural Bio-resources:

Of the horticultural plants, gene pools of Citrus (oranges and lemons), Musa (banana), Prunus (plums and other pomaoeous fruits) etc. probably constitute the major centre of gene diversity. Besides ‘Queen’ which is a world class pineapple in terms of sweetness and high vitamin C content is widely cultivated as cash crop by the weaker sections (SCs/STs). Thea Manipurensis is only endemic to this State.

7.   Microbial Bio-resources:

A variety of blue-green algae found in N.E. Region particularly in Manipur that can successfully be used as ‘˜bio-fertilizers’ the application of which improves crop quality and yield. The mushroom flora is highly rich in protein and the edible species are highly tasty (with good flavor), nutritive and of commercial importance. In this region, many edible species (34 in Manipur) have been recorded. Bioprospecting these rich, soil micro-organisms may lead to the discovery of novel antibodies and other industrial products.

8.   Aquatic Genetic Resources:

N.E. Region and Manipur in particular have rich fish resource. A variety of endemic species found in the Wet land ecosystem (Loktak and other lakes) have been documented. Several migratory fishes along the Chindwin-Irrawaddy and Barak river systems have also been listed. As many as 140 fish species (only in Manipur) have been found, including a number of small ornamented fishes in the hill streams. In addition, many edible snails and mussels, edible red algae, Lemanea australis (Nungsam) are also available in this region.

There is an ample scope for commercial culture of freshwater mussels and prawn and also hill stream fishes many of which are highly prized.

9.   Seribio-technology and Insect Bio-resources:

The insect Bio-resources of N.E. Region and Manipur in particular comprise (a) mulberry silkworm, (b) Oak tasar and Eri silkworm, (c) Pollinators – honey bees, (d) predators and paracitoids of pests, (e) bio-control agents, (f) wild butterflies of aesthetic value and (g) edible insects.

To utilize these Bio-resources effectively and bringing in a commercial scale, research has to be undertaken for:

(i)    improving the existing strains of species,

(ii) field testing/bio-efficacy /yield assessment and

(iii) simple methods of augmentation.

Conclusion:

Bio-resources development and their sustainable use through biotechnological inventions for socio-economic growth of the N.E. Region is the present need of the hour. Government/relevant authorities should take up steps to generate technological packages leading to the development of bio-resources products and processes applicable to enhance the productivity in agriculture, horticulture and forestry, aquaculture etc.

References / Further Readings:

1.  Scheme proposal for establishment of ‘The National Institute for Bio-resources and Sustainable Development (NIBSD) at Imphal, Manipur’, submitted to the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science & Technology, Government of India. ‘” Submitted by the Government of Manipur, Dept. of Science & Technology, Imphal, 2000.

2.  Program support for ‘Conservation and Sustainable Utilization of Bio-Resources of Meghalaya at Bio-Resources Development Centre (BRDC), Shillong. ‘” A proposal submitted to DBT, Ministry of Science & Technology, Govt. of India by Bio-Resources Development Centre (BRDC), Shillong.

3.  Resource Assessment of Non-Wood Forest Products – Experience & biometric principles, – published by FAO, Rome, 2001.

4.  Conserving Biodiversity – Information and Manual ‘” published by CEE, N.E. Regional Cell, Guwahati & Field Studies Council, U.K. 2000.

5.  Report of the ‘Three-Day State Level Workshop on Revitalization of Traditional Health Practices’ – March 30 – April 1, 2000 at Youth Hostel, Imphal (report compiled by N. Rajmuhon Singh). ‘” Submitted to Indo-German Services Society, New-Delhi by Kha-Manipur Yoga & Nature Cure Association, Kakching, 2000.

6.  ‘Conservation of Chemically potential Plants of North-Eastern Region with Special Reference to Manipur’, ‘” Project Report (TDC-III) of L. Kritakumar Singh, L. Ajit Singh, Kh. Saratchandra Singh, Pratima Saikhom and N. Honeymani Devi submitted (under the supervision of Dr. N. Rajmuhon Singh) to Department of Environmental Science, D.M. College of Science, Imphal, 1997.

7.  ‘Eco-Tourism – with special reference to Manipur’ – a Project Report (M. Sc. Prev.) ‘” submitted by Pratima Saikhom (under the supervision of Dr. N. Rajmuhon Singh) to Indira Gandhi Academy of Environmental Education, Research and Eco-planning, Jiwaji University, Gwalior, 1999.

*The paper is written by N.Rajmuhon Singh.

*The authour is with Manipur University, Imphal

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