WHAT IS THE SOURCE OF SUPPLY OF ASHOKA CHHAL (BARK OF THE ASHOKA TREE) WHICH IS IN HIGH DEMAND BY THE INDIGENOUS PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY IN INDIA?
As per the “Demand Study for Selected Medicinal Plants“ prepared by the Centre for Research, Planning and Action, 2001-02 for the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare,Govt. of India, Department of Indian systems of Medicine and Homeopathy (ISM&H) & World Health Organization, the estimated domestic demand for bark of Saraca asoca was 5332 metric tonnes for the year 1999-2000 and the estimated demand was projected to increase @ 15% annually, reaching the demand level of more than 10,000 tonnes for the year 2004-05. This high annual demand of tree bark needs to be obtained from an Endangered medicinal tree of India i.e. Saraca asoca. The assessment done about the occurrence of wild populations of this species in India has revealed that this species occurs sporadically in the Western Ghats, Eastern Ghats, Eastern and North eastern India, mainly along water streams. As per the information compiled so far, its wild populations of reasonable size have been reported only in the Western ghats of Karnataka and some regions of Eastern Ghats of Orissa. Elsewhere the natural occurrence of this species is sporadic only. These limited wild populations cannot provide the required quantity of bark for the indigenous (ISM) industry and it is reasonable to conclude that some other plant material(unknown?) is being collected and utilised, instead of Saraca asoca In this forum we would like to raise this issue and get inputs/feedback from knowledgeable people who can provide their assessment/views on what is actually happening in terms of procurement of this material for the indigenous industries and the raw material (bark) is being obtained from which plant species? We would like to know if there are other wild populations of Saraca asoca, elsewhere in the country and what are the suggested management interventions for ensuring long term conservation and sustainable utilization of this valuable species.