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All eyes on India’s Northeast – the gateway to southeast Asia – as an emerging Bio-Economic Hub

India's work in valuing and conserving nature in the region is also inspiring other countries in southeast Asia

India's Northeast will be developed as a Bio-Economic Hub as New Delhi has intensified efforts to make the country a global bio-manufacturing hub by 2025 and figure among the top five countries of the world.

India's Bio-Economy is on its way to achieve a 150-billion-dollar target from the current 70 billion-dollar by 2025 and will contribute effectively to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vision of a 5 trillion-dollar economy by 2024-25.

The Eastern Himalayan Region is one of the mega-biodiversity rich zones and is among the 34 biodiversity hotspots of the world.

India's work in valuing and conserving nature in the region is also inspiring other countries in southeast Asia.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), one of the world's oldest and largest global environmental organisations, the Indo-Burma region ranks among the world's top 10 biodiversity 'hotspots', a term which is used to describe the planet's most biologically rich and threatened regions.

The Indo-Burma Hotspot includes all non-marine parts of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, plus parts of southern China.

It is also home to more people than any other hotspot, and its remaining natural ecosystems are subject to intense and growing pressure from habitat loss and over-exploitation of natural resources.

Northeast India

Minister of State for Science and Technology and Earth Sciences Jitendra Singh at the Institute of Bio-resources and Sustainable Development (IBSD), in Imphal, Manipur on Tuesday (Image courtesy: PIB)

After visiting the Institute of Bio-resources and Sustainable Development (IBSD) in Imphal on Tuesday, the Science and Technology minister Jitendra Singh, who also holds the the Earth Sciences portfolio, said that there is a need to put these invaluable genetic resources to use for the economic growth of the region and the nation through biotechnological interventions.

Singh said that, on the directives of PM Modi, the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) has played a pivotal role to build capacity in the North Eastern region for carrying out biotechnology research. They specifically address issues in the region and implement programmes for the societal upliftment of the local communities as the North Eastern region is a genetic treasure house of plant, animal and microbial resources. 

The minister informed that DBT-funded Phyto-pharmaceutical Lab Facility at IBSD is promoting the Phyto-pharmaceutical Mission of North Eastern Region. This mission, that aims to promote the documentation, scientific validation and evaluation of traditional healthcare practices, is an important step and assumes special significance in the context of the vast plant resources and diverse traditional healthcare practices of the North-East.

The DBT has supported a project on pilot scale demonstrations of strawberry cultivation with sustainable agro-technological interventions using high-quality planting material in farmers' fields in Meghalaya jointly at Bio-Resources Development Centre, Shillong and Institute of Horticulture Technology, Mandira, Assam.

Singh said that about 50 tissue-culture raised plantlets of elite varieties of strawberry are proposed to be distributed to the farmers in Manipur.

Similarly, the DBT has designed a programme to improve the production and productivity in Khasi Mandarin, an important fruit crop by producing quality planting material through shoot-tip grafting technology.

The programme has a target of producing four lakhs certifiable disease-free quality plants of Khasi Mandarin and Sweet Orange during the three years duration of the project and build capacity of at least 1,000 farmers in the region.

As many as 50 plants of grafted Khasi Mandarin have been generated at AAU-Citrus Research Station, Tinsukia, Assam and will be handed over to the farmers in Manipur state.

The DBT has also established a Biotech-Kisan Hub at Horticultural Research Station, Assam Agricultural University (AAU), Kahikuchi, for large-scale production of quality planting material of Malbhog banana, which is in high demand in the state of Assam. About 50 macro-propagated Malbhog bananas are proposed to be distributed to the farmers of Manipur.

Singh said that the transformational approaches in developing products, processes and technologies with local bio-resources will help in development of traditional knowledge-based therapeutic agents leading to the socio-economic development of the region as well as benefits to traditional health care practitioners.

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