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Walla patta plant; its Use and the Current status

Sat10202018

Last update5:58:50 UTC 2018


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Walla patta plant; its Use and the Current status

Walla patta 1(by Thalpe Liyanage) A workshop, which was organized by the Ministry of Environment and Renewable Energy to inform journalists on the Walla patta plant, that has been on focus recently, was held on 03.02.2014. The aim of the workshop was to discuss on informing the public on aforementioned plant through media, the legal framework on the plant, researches regarding the plant and its usage, the feasibility of import/export and the ability of promoting this plant as a minor export crop with the view of stopping the unconscious annihilation of the plant.

 

A group including B.M.U.D. Basnayake, Secretary to the Ministry of Environment and Renewable Energy, R.A.R.R. Rupasinghe, G. Gamage, and N.K.G.K. Nammawatte, who are Additional Secretaries of the Ministry with other Ministry officials, Anura Sathurusinghe, Forest Conservation General of the Department of Forest Conservation, W.A. Pathirathna, Director (Operations) of the Department of Wildlife Conservation, and Quintus Remand, Director of the Police Protection Authority participated in the workshop.  Resource persons of the workshop were, Dr. Cyril Wijesundera, Director General of the Department of Botanical Gardens, Jagath Gunawardena, Senior Environmental Lawyer, Samantha Gunasekara, Deputy Director of the Department of Customs Sri Lanka, Upul Subasinghe, Senior Lecturer of the University of Sri Jayawardenapura, and Dr. M.A. Sumanasekara, Director of the Department of Export Agriculture.

 

Biological Features of Walla Patta plant

Walla patta 6

Gyrinops walla is the botanical name of this plant. 'Walla' is adopted from Sinhala. It belongs to the Thymelaeaceae family. There are about 8 species of plants in the Gyrinops genus. It is widely spread as under layers within forests of the wet and intermediate zones in Sri Lanka. It can be minimally seen in Tamil Nadu and Kerala areas in India.

 

When plants of Thymelaeaceae family are damaged due to an external harm, they produce agarwood from their stem as a secondary defensive mechanism in order to be protected from micro biotic diseases. Aquilaria category is prominent on producing agarwood in this family. Those plants that belongs to Gyrinops category also produces agarwood but studies show that the production is very small, compared to the weight of the plant.

 

Use of Walla Patta plant

Walla patta 4

The high demand occurred regarding the Walla Patta plant is due to cosmetics and medicines produced by the agarwood of the plant. They are very expensive in the world market.

 

Islamic voyager Ibn Battuta has stated that in the 13th century, Arabic nationalities have used this fragrant material. As stated in the book "A Thousand and One Nights", they have used the material in order to fragrant their houses in special festivals. It was a product, which could only be achieved by the upper class of the society in order to facilitate their luxurious lifestyle. Cosmetics made by these materials were also used to fragrant clothing of holy Prophet.

 

In India the material is used as a medicine for asthma, stomachache, diarrhoea, goitre, rheumatism, paralyse, and skin diseases and to grow the sexual strength. Small pieces of the plant are put in oil and are applied to fragrant the body. Wood of this tree was used for woodcarvings. Taiwan, Cambodia, Vietnam are the main countries that high quality agarwood are produced in the present. There is a high demand from Japan, Korea, China, European countries, and Middle East countries for those products.  Peculiarly, Middle East countries are demanding the product as it is alcohol free.

 

Present status of the Walla Patta plant.

 Walla patta

In Sri Lanka, the plant was popularised within recent 4-5 years.  For the first time Dr. S.S. Fernando during a workshop on 03 July 2012 for newly recruited Custom Officers has explained about the export of Walla Patta plant. The first raid on Walla Patta plant was done by the Department of Forest Conservation at Kalawana, Ratnapura, on 27 August 2012, and parts of the plant were seized. There are clues that this smuggling took place for a long period. The smuggle prevails in the country as a broad network, especially in North and North Central provinces and it is being undertaken through coastal roads. In addition to Walla Patta plant, smugglers have built a market for white sandalwood, Divi Kaduru seeds, and types of geckos. It will not only cause loosing of a large amount of foreign exchange to the country, but also plants and animal communities that are inherited to Sri Lanka, the right to genes , and the ability of obtaining the patent  for those species.

 

Legal Steps

 

Walla Patta plant, which is in a threat due to its high removal from the environment, has been inserted to the second schedule of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Endangered species of plants have been inserted in this schedule, and a separate institution has been established for international trade, regulation, and supervision of these species.

 

Under the provisions of the Forest Conservation Ordinance, removal of trees or forest materials from the forests is a punishable offence. Therefore, collecting, removal or damaging forest materials without a permit is an illegal act according to 6 (a) and 6 (c) articles of the amended Forest Conservation Ordinance No 65 of 2009 regarding conservative forests, and according to the code of orders No 01 stated in the gazette No 68/14 issued on 26.12.1979 regarding reserved forests, and according to the code of rules No 01 of the above gazette, regarding other forests.

 

Regarding transportation within Sri Lanka, action should be taken according to gazette No 1548/29 dated 09.05.2008 and No 1762/1 dated 11/06/2012 published under the article 24(1) of the Forest Conservation Ordinance. Possessing, administrating or keeping unpermitted wood is also a punishable offence. Accordingly, action can be taken according to gazette No 879/7 dated 13.07.1995 and No 971/4 dated 18/04/1997 published under the article 36(1) of the Forest Conservation Ordinance.

 

Exporting wood, seeds, and other forest materials without a permit is illegal according to the code of orders stated in the gazette No 1161/6 issued on 05.12.2000, which is published under the article 24(1) of the Forest Conservation Ordinance. In addition, the export is supervised by the institution established by the CITES.

 

Orders can be enacted under the article 45 of the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance on prohibiting or regulating the export and plantation of this plant, and for protecting this plant. Laws can be enacted to formulate a procedure for testing the exporting of a plant, seal the plant after testing, prohibition of exporting plants that do not have necessary permitted documents, and prohibition or control of exporting a part of a plant. Furthermore, according to the article 47 of the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance, provisions stipulated in Forests Ordinance, Diyaberaliya Ordinance, Tea Control Act, and Rubber Control Act are also applicable for this plant. Approval of the country, which the plant is exported, should be gained. As the Department of Wildlife Conservation is the regulating station of CITES, its approval should also be taken. According to the Convention on Biological Diversity, Walla Patta plant is exposed to in-situ and ex-situ conservation. The plant is inserted in the Red Data Book in 2012 as a vulnerable species.

 

Researches on Walla Patta Plant

Walla patta W 1

By artificially injecting fungus into the stem of this plant, rapid economical advantages can be obtained. Other countries have conducted researches on production of agarwood through this method. University of Minnesota in USA has conducted many researches. In our country, researches are underway.  Very limited researches have been done regarding obtaining of planting materials, medium of planting, and extraction methods.

 

To establish the correct use of Walla Patta plant through conservation will be our future responsibility.

 

 

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