Nardostachys jatamansi or Nardostachys grandiflora locally known as Jatamansi, is one of the high value herb collected in Nepal from remote areas like Jumla, Humla, Mugu, Dolpa. These are secluded regions of Nepal which are full of poverty and illiteracy. Additionally, the locals dwelling in these regions suffer crisis of basic necessities like food, education, health.
Amid these challenges, the collection of high value medicinal plants like Jatamansi gives array of hope to them. The folks collect roots of this plant from November when the foliage wear outs because of winter. The mature roots come little above the ground. The folks collect these roots and bring it to local traders. The traders sell these herbs either locally or to wholesalers all over Nepal. In F.Y. 2071/72, the collected Jatamansi root quantity was 161.5 MT which is approx NPR 113,045,800 in value at present (Data Source: Jadibuti Association of Nepal, JABAN).
Jatamansi in CITES
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an agreement between governments of different countries. It aims to control and regulate trade of wild species which is either about to extinct or endangered. It was developed in 1973 and implemented in 1976. CITES comprises of measures of conservation and trade both. It protects approx. 5600 animals and 30,000 plants listed in three appendices as per their availability and conservation status (CITES Species).
- Appendix I: Species under threat of extinction, so, trades are strictly regulated.
- Appendix II: Endangered species which may extinct with unsustainable collection practices.
- Appendix III: Species for conservation to prevent over exploitation. (Dongol & Heinen, 2012)
Jatamansi was included in CITES Appendix II in 1997. Initially, the listing was annotated ‘whole and sliced roots and parts of roots, excluding manufactured parts or derivatives such as powders, pills, extracts, tonics, teas and confectionary (Larsen & Olsen). In 2007, the annotation was change to ‘all parts and derivatives except: a) seeds and pollen; and b) finished products packaged and ready for retail trade (CITES, 2007).
Nepal’s legislation for regulation of CITES
Till date, Nepal had no direct legal procedure for CITES implementation. For trade and implementation, the government official abide The Forest Act, 1993 and National Parks and Wild Life Conservation Act, 1973 (NPWC, 1973) directly. It was also indirectly influenced by The Export Import Council Act, 1961, The Customs Act, 2007, The Police Act, 1995 and The Environment Protection Act, 1997. Due to absence of direct law for CITES list species, the officials were perplexed about the actions to be taken in case of malpractices.
The CITES implementing legislation “The Rare (Endangered) Wildlife and Plants Trade Control Act, 2057 (2002)” was held up in cabinet until this year (Dongol & Heinen, 2012). In May 2017, Government of Nepal (GoN) has announced domestic CITES enabling legislation with immediate effect (सङ्कटापन्न वन्यजन्तुतथा वनस्पतिको अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय व्यापार नियन्त्रण ऐन, २०७२).
Moreover, the step is taken to avoid compliance related to conservation and protection of CITES species.
What went wrong?
The GoN has announced the act for protection of species which are under threat of extinction. The act was important for legislation and control of CITES species whereas there are few important aspects which the law has not cover.
Firstly, rules are important to define execution of any act and there is no draft of it yet. The act says it will publish list of flora and fauna of Nepal which falls under CITES with is botanical, English and Nepali names in Gadget for awareness of citizens. It also says rules and guidelines will be developed and published to elaborate the act.
The problem is the stakeholders are unaware of time it will consume. The act has defined the three appendices of CITES as following:
- Appendix I: “दुर्लभ वन्यजन्तु वा वनस्पति” meaning Rare Fauna or Flora
- Appendix II: “लोपोन्मुख वन्यजन्तु वा वनस्पति” meaning Endangered Fauna or Flora
- Appendix III: “संरक्षित वन्यजन्तु वा वनस्पति” meaning Conserved Fauna or Flora
Paragraph 2 clause 3 prohibits trade of species in Appendix I and II. The species under this are banned for future trade and business. The act has provisions to give access to the source for educational, training, exhibition, bio diversity study, research purpose and conservation study. For this, the applicant will be liable to special permission from related Government body. It has recognized Department of Plant Resources (DPR) as scientific body for flora. It will be held responsible for research and identification of such species.
Since Jatamansi falls in appendix II of CITES, its trade is banned now. The act is announced with immediate effect which means whosoever possesses this herb has to leave it as it is without further action until rules are drafted and executed.
The act is implemented without any prior notice to the stakeholders. For private sector, this is equivalently catastrophic like the Earthquake back in 2015. In some cases, the destruction is way beyond. Sudden halt in trade with immediate effect for uncertain time has blocked huge raw material and processed product. The private sector is also not aware of the duration; they have to wait to clear this stock. It is speculated that this has blocked approx. 200 MT raw materials (Data Source: Jadibuti Association of Nepal, JABAN).
Along with this, these are perishable in nature which means with time its quality and appearance will decay. Additionally, since the trade of this herb is banned by Government itself. The stakeholders possessing its stock have become criminal overnight without any fault.
As per record of F.Y. 2071/72, the trade volume of Jatamansi Oil and Jatamansi marc accounts of approx 115.9 MT (Data Source: Jadibuti Association of Nepal, JABAN). This trade involves at least 25000-30000 households covering all regions of Nepal. It is estimated folks of Himalayan regions earn their 18-20% of their income through trade of these high value MAPs (Medicinal and Aromatic Plants) species (Larsen & Olsen). Stakeholders export Jatamansi essential oils and marc worldwide which is used in Aromatherapy, Cosmetics and Industries.
As a result of this, acute shortage of supply will take place for the buyers using this product worldwide. On the other hand, the private sector who has taken high stake on the product will collapse resulting in high unemployment and heavy loss to the economy.
The nutshell stakeholders like farmers/collectors will lose one of their potential alternative income sources.