Bhojpatra, a unique tree having tremendous medicinal qualities, is on the verge of extinction at Gangotri forests in Uttarakhand thanks to its massive uprooting.
Compounding the problem, thousands of Kanwarias, pouring into Gangotri to collect Ganga water are also wrecking heavy damage to the Bhojpatra forests.
Environmentalists are now calling for a complete ban on the collection of Bhojpatra also known as Himalayan birch from Gangotri where its trees are vanishing fast.
“Bhojpatra of Gangotri has vanished absolutely. Bhojbasa, a place at Gangotri area, has been devoid of Bhojpatra forests and live juniper bushes have been charred for collecting fuel,” says Harshwanti Bisht, an environmentalist, who has launched “save Bhojpatra” campaign.
Scientists at the Forest Research Institute (FRI) here say that Bhojpatara is used for various ailments like asthama and hysteria. The papery layer of Birch bark is considered to be a highly astringent agent. By virtue of such quality its external use is recommended as styptic (to stop bleeding) and to stop any purulent discharge. Hence it is used more often to clean the wounds.
Ayurveda also uses Birch in many formulations for obesity and other disorders of lipid metabolism. It has been described to be effective herb for treatment of obesity, scientists said.
As the Kanwar mela reaches its peak in Uttarakhand, attempts are being made to stop Kanwarias, who are devotees of Lord Shiva, from proceeding towards Bhojvasa. Shanthi Thakur, a woman activist along with several seers of Gangotri have been staging dharna on the Uttarkashi-Gangotri highway.
“We are asking the administration to stop these Kanwarias from destroying the precious Bhojpatra forests at Gangotri,” Thakur said.
Bist with the help of locals has launched a project to save Bhojpatra. A 5.5 hectares of area at Bhojbasa, 14 km from Gangotri has been fenced with angle iron poles and barbed wire. Fresh saplings of Bhojpatra have also been planed at Bhojvasa, Bist said.