Recommendations

It is evident from the present investigation that the Lesser Himalayas is a rich area particularly with reference to medicinal plants. Its vegetation is valuable due to its natural resources. The natural resources must be looked after and managed. In order to conserve these resources, the local people must become actively involved in the evaluation, planning, implementation, and monitoring processes, as they are the best judges of the area.

The following recommendations are being proposed to conserve the plant species and to reap the greatest benefits from the available resources:

• The literacy rate must be increased; this will change people's minds about current practices.

• Local organizations may involve local people as leaders of activities geared toward environmental conservation awareness. Local schoolteachers and religious leaders must be considered for such positions.

• In the present situation, the authorities should give attention to the sustainable use of resources.

• The locals should be educated about the importance of medicinal plants to their socioeconomic conditions and to the ecosystem.

• Small domestic industries such as beekeeping, gardening, handicrafts, and so on must be encouraged in the area through social organizations within the local communities.

• Forest rules must be overhauled by taking villagers into confidence, as misuse of the present rules has been reported.

• Botanical gardens of local medicinal plants should be made in the area where both the folk plants and their lore can be displayed for visitors.

• Research and postgraduate educational institutions should be involved to point out regeneration and propagation techniques for vulnerable medicinal species.

• The collection of medicinal plants carried out by locals may be streamlined in a way that provides ample regeneration time to the plant, keeping its optimum period of growth in mind. The area once used for collection may be declared a protected area, with extraction prohibited for a few years.

• The reforestation of fuelwood and fodder species must be encouraged, and alternate sources like gas cylinders, energy-efficient cookstoves, and tandoor ovens should be made available to local people.

• The reserved forests around religious shrines may be dedicated to the name of the respective shrine or saint.

• Improved livestock husbandry could significantly reduce grazing pressure in the area. Rotational grazing should be encouraged against periodic overgrazing among the local communities.

• Awareness and incentives for planting locally useful trees may be launched by schoolteachers, leaders of local mosques, and village elders.

• Further research should be done on the breeding biology, extent of natural range, threats, and population dynamic of endangered, rare, and endemic species of wild plants and animals.

• A regional conservation committee should be created for the area.

• Researchers and medicinal plant experts should visit the area during March to August for plant studies.

• In order to avoid further loss of endangered, endemic, and rare species, conservation methods should be practiced as part of a long-term conservation program.

• Reforestation trends have been lacking among the local communities. Along with regeneration activities, an alternate source should be provided to reduce pressure on fuelwood. For instance, for lower-income people, energy-efficient cookstoves, gas cylinders, and tandoors can be provided, leading to a 25-40% fuel saving.

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