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Meghalaya to notify ‘Pitcher Plant Sanctuary’

This proposal has been approved by Chief Minister Conrad Sangma at a meeting held on Tuesday. 

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Shillong: The Meghalaya government has decided to notify a land measuring 1.19 sq. km within the Baghmara Reserve Forest as a ‘Pitcher Plant Sanctuary’ in South Garo Hills district, a forest official said on Wednesday.

Forest and Environment Minister James Sangma said the government received the proposal to notify the Baghmara Reserve Forest as a ‘Pitcher Plant Sanctuary’ by the State Board for Wildlife. 

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This proposal has been approved by Chief Minister Conrad Sangma at a meeting held on Tuesday. 

“We have decided to notify an area in the Baghmara reserve forest as a pitcher plant sanctuary,” he said adding, that a portion of Riat Khwan reserve forest adjacent to Umiam lake will be declared as a bird sanctuary and an extended portion of Nongkhyllem wildlife sanctuary.

A forest official said the government’s decision to notify the ‘Pitcher Plant Sanctuary’ will now ensure better protection of India’s only pitcher plant – Nepenthes khasiana Hook, an evergreen shrub considered endemic to Meghalaya.

“The very objective of the establishment of Baghmara Pitcher Plant Sanctuary is to protect and preserve this rare, endemic and threatened in nature for generations. The vegetations of the sanctuary provides home to small animals such as squirrels, foxes, mongoose, lizards, snakes etc. in the heart of the town. The Sanctuary also protects soil erosion and provide water to section of the surrounding villages,” the official said.

The plant which is cylindrical-shaped “pitcher” that grows at the end of its leaf is mostly distributed in Meghalaya’s West and East Khasi Hills, West and South Garo Hills and Jaintia Hills at an altitude of about 1000 to 1500 metres. It is classified as endangered; the species occupies an area of 250 square kilometres, according to the IUCN Red List.

The pitcher, about six inches long, has a sticky liquid inside it. If an insect falls into the pitcher, it drowns in the liquid. At the bottom of the pitcher are glands, which are used to absorb nutrients from captured insects.

The indigenous Garo people call the pitcher plant “Me’mang-Koksi” “basket of the devil”, while the Khasi people call it ‘tiew rakot’, which means ‘demon flower’ and the Jaintia people call it ‘kset phare’ which means ‘fly net with a lid’. The plant is used in the traditional medicine system.

However, due to habitat destruction, unsustainable harvesting and other factors5,6, pitcher plants may disappear soon. 

The Government of India has already included the plant in appendix-I of CITES and the negative list of exports 7.

“Tissue-culture approach has been utilized successfully by some workers for multiplication and conservation of Nepenthes khasiana Hook. However, the best method of conservation would be to protect the plant permanently in its wild by creating public awareness and involving local people in the process of conservation,” the botanist said. 

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