1. Agriculture World

Ex-Forest Officer Trains ‘Vaidyas’ to Protect Odisha’s Medicinal Plants

Hota has also brought together many vaidyas from the Kalahandi district to conduct research on the subject as an executive committee member of the Odisha State Medicinal Plant Board and an advisory committee member of the Odisha Vanaspati Vana Society.

Shivam Dwivedi
Medicinal Plants
Medicinal Plants

Every Sunday morning, a line of vaidyas (traditional medicine practitioners) and people interested in medicinal plant knowledge forms outside Biswanath Hota's house. Despite being 81 years old and paralysed, Hota meets them all and spends the entire day dispelling their misconceptions about the uses of medicinal plants and ways to preserve them. For the past two decades, this has been his routine.

Bhawanipatna-based Hota retired as deputy conservator of forests on July 31, 1999, and he has never had a dull moment since. He has done everything from assisting people in setting up small medicinal gardens to spending his pension money on training young vaidyas to understand the properties of medicinal plant species in Kalahandi and Gandhamardan hills.

"Our state is a rich storehouse of medicinal plants, and each of us should know about them to preserve them for the future," said Hota, who has now decided to donate 3,000 rare books on botanical and medicinal plants from his collection and research works over the course of his four-decade career to Kalahandi University for the benefit of students and research scholars in the subject.

During his tenure as deputy conservator of forests, he was instrumental in documenting the properties of the majority of the available medicinal plant species in the Kalahandi and Gandhamardan hills.

Hota has also brought together many vaidyas from the Kalahandi district to conduct research on the subject as an executive committee member of the Odisha State Medicinal Plant Board and an advisory committee member of the Odisha Vanaspati Vana Society.

Kalahandi now has five registered and three unregistered Vaidya Sanghas with over 1,000 active members as a result of his efforts.

"The vaidyas come to me every week to discuss various medicinal plants, and all of them are interested in conserving rare species, which is good for the future of Odisha's medicinal plants," Hota explained.

He stated that 14 of Odisha's 41 threatened medicinal plant varieties are endangered due to unsustainable bark extraction.

The Ashoka tree is critically endangered and is found primarily in the Dhuanali-Barbara forest area, which is known as the "Treasure Island" of the Khurda forest division due to its diverse flora and fauna. He has received numerous awards for his efforts and is a regular on panel discussions on medicinal plants on Doordarshan and Akashvani.

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