‘Illegal trading, urbanization threatening orchids in Arunachal’

[ Prafulla Kaman ]

DOOMDOOMA, Jul 2: Illegal trading and rapid urbanization are posing a great threat to epiphytic orchids in Arunachal Pradesh, orchid expert from Assam, Khyonjeey Gogoi, has said.
Gogoi said orchid smuggling rackets have been active in Arunachal for many years, “which pushed many indigenous orchid species into the IUCN’s red list (of threatened species).”
Gogoi, who is a founder member of the Orchid Society of Eastern Himalayas (OSEH), was addressing a workshop on ‘Wild orchid conservation and propagation’ here in Assam’s Tinsukia district on Monday.
“Besides human activities, deforestation and forest degradation due to road construction activities led to decline and possible extinction of many epiphytic orchid species in Arunachal,” he said.
He presented a demonstration on the methods of orchid cultivation and propagation, and highlighted the prospects and potentialities of orchid cultivation in the region, besides its economic viability.
Known as the ‘Orchid Man of Assam’, Gogoi has already conducted surveys on orchids in the forests of Arunachal and other Northeast states, and prepared a systemic documentation of his findings.
He informed that out of the 650 orchid species recorded in the region, 398 species are found in the forests of Arunachal alone.
Gogoi has also developed a greenhouse orchidarium in Rupai, near here, which houses more than 600 orchid species.
Highlighting the importance of orchids from the economic point of view, Prof Annajyoti Gogoi of Dhemaji College said “valuable plant species are gradually vanishing from the natural vegetation due to human cruelty.”
Lamenting that the environment & forest department has not yet initiated any concrete steps for conservation of the valuable orchids, Prof Gogoi called for “propagation and conservation of the orchids through tissue culture.”
From Arunachal, orchid conservator Pronab Mega shared his experiences in orchid conservation. He informed that many rare and endangered orchids are found in Dibang Valley district “but the people were earlier totally ignorant about the values of the flowering plants.”
Mega said awareness programmes on orchids are being organized, “so that the people can realize the values of orchids and the importance of preservation of the plant species.”
The workshop, which was organized by the Orchid Society of Assam (OSA) with assistance from the OSEH, focused mainly on conservation of wild orchids in natural vegetation, and scientific propagation and cultivation of hybrid orchids.
The orchid family (Orchidaceae) is the second largest family of flowering plants, with about 880 genera and some 26,000 species distributed nearly worldwide.
OSA president Dr Jitu Gogoi, retired vice principal Dr Sarbeswar Chutiya, social activist Labanya Lahon Chutiya, and orchid enthusiasts from different parts of Assam attended the workshop.