Environmentalists and experts are unhappy with the Jammu and Kashmir government’s decision to lift the ban on the extraction of medicinal plants and other minor produce from forest areas. There are also allegations that the decision came after the strong herb-extraction lobby brokered a deal with the ruling National Conference-Congress government.

While state forest minister Mian Altaf Ahmad has refuted these allegations, highly placed sources told this newspaper that experts had advised the J&K Forest Department to continue the ban on the extraction of rare medicinal herbs for at least two more years. The ban was imposed in 2005.

Environmentalists had advised the J&K government to impose the ban “as most of the herbs and other minor forest produce were at the verge of extinction”.

“We have lifted the ban, after giving rest to the extraction for eight years. The ban was lifted after reviewing all the aspects including expert advice,” Altaf Ahmad said. He added that extraction would be allowed with monitoring and care. Environmentalists alleged that “the strong business lobby” in the Jammu region has reportedly brokered a deal with the ruling alliance leaders to get the ban lifted in order to restart their herb processing units. Some of them have reportedly managed herb processing units in the neighbourhood to forests in Doda and Kishtiwar regions of Jammu. Both political parties have denied any deal with contractors of herb extraction.

“Some herbs are in great demand globally and will fetch a huge amount to these contractors of herbs,” botanist Dr Bilal Ahmad said.

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