large export of kothala himbutu
By Dinushika Dissanayake
The distinct dark rings on the light coloured bark are characteristic
of the kothala himbutu creeper, a herbal plant well known for its
medicinal qualities as a solution for Diabetes. The plant’s
medicinal qualities are well known in villages in Sri Lanka, where
jugs are made with the bark of the kothala himbutu creeper, in which
water is stored overnight and consumed by patients.
Lanka produces some of the best kothala himbutu plants in the world,”
says Dr. Victor Hettigoda, founder of Hettigoda Industries (Pvt.)
Ltd., which produces the well known Siddhalepa balm and a renowned
ayurvedic physician. Hettigoda Industries has registered one patent
for this drug which contains this herb among others as a solution
for the controlling and cure of diabetes.
The scarcity of this creeper and the time which it takes to grow
puts it into the category of endangered plants in the island. Japan
among other countries is one of the foremost producers of drugs
containing this herb and owns ten patents on such drugs.
to Jagath Gunawardane an environmental lawyer, of the 20 world patents
that currently exist on drugs containing kothala himbutu, 13 of
them are detrimental to Sri Lanka.
identification of the value and scarcity of the plant eight years
ago prompted export restrictions on the plant and its bark, preventing
large scale exports of the plant to foreign countries. According
to Gunawardane however, large exports of the herb have now begun
after a lull of eight years. “One month ago seven tonnes of
kothala himbutu were exported to Japan,” he said, adding that
the plants had been collected from the Puttalam district.
official who declined to be named confirmed the shipment and said
that since the export had been done after obtaining the relevant
permits, it was not illegal. “Though the shipment was legal,
the question remains whether it was ethical since the plant is extremely
scarce and tissue cultured plants are still in their early stages
of growth,” he said.
of Hettigoda Industries elaborated the methods in which the herb
is exported from the island, legally or illegally. “They send
it in powder form, as wood chips and even as wooden jugs which are
made out of the bark of the creeper,” he said. Adding a new
twist to the drama, the Deputy Forest Conservator K.P. Ariyadasa
said that no one can export forest products without obtaining a
permit from the department. “If they are very rare medicinal
plants we don’t normally give permission for large shipments,”
also said that the exporter must prove that the source of the plants
was a private property and that it was not from conserved forest
land in the island.
“When it comes to large shipments, they find it difficult
to prove the source as this is a difficult plant to rear and such
large amounts cannot be obtained from a private land,” he
said. He also said that the department had refused the permit for
such a shipment two years ago.
however abounds among the environmentally conscious in Sri Lanka,
as to how the exporter of a shipment of seven tonnes of kothala
himbutu was able to obtain the permit and prove the source of the
herb to be a private land.