Pakistan to protect its indigenous knowledge from bio-piracy


KARACHI: Pakistan for the first time stepped towards the protection of its indigenous (home-grown) knowledge especially about folk medicine.

Director ICCBS-UoK Prof. Dr. Mohammad Iqbal Chaudhary said this while speaking at a press conference held at the L.E.J. National Science Information Centre, University of Karachi here on Wednesday.

Dr. Atia-tul-Wahab along with her survey team was also present on the occasion.

He said Sindh Government spent Rs.23 million to compile authentic ethno-botanical information and folk medicinal practices in rural areas of Sindh in the form of reports, database, and monograph.

Western world tries to commit biopiracy, which means an illegal collection of indigenous plants by corporations who patent them for their own use.

The global launching of the website (www.folkmedsindh.com.pk, and Monograph) of folk medicines at the International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS), University of Karachi (UoK) will help Pakistan to protect its home-grown knowledge from biological theft (biopiracy).”

Prof. Iqbal Chaudhary said Sindh, being the most ancient civilization of the world, has a vast knowledge and unbroken tradition of the use of the plants for a variety of purposes. This knowledge is a precious heritage, accumulated over the years and deserves to be protected, both for future generation, and from biopiracy and unjustified patenting by others, by placing them in public domain, he added.

He said that Sindh Provincial Minister Murad Ali Shah would launch this useful database website of folk medicines in the inaugural ceremony of the National Seminar on ‘Plant Remedies Used Against Skin Diseases in Sindh’ to be held at ICCBS on Friday (October 09).

He said, “ICCBS in association with Sindh Government conducted a province-wide survey to gather the data about the indigenous knowledge and practices to treat infectious skin diseases with the aim to document the folk remedies in the form of monograph and website. Therefore, with the help of Planning & Development Department, Government of Sindh, we have for the first time documented this fast disappearing knowledge of the use of medicinal plants against skin diseases. The key outcome of the survey is the preservation of the indigenous healing knowledge of local people of Sindh related to plant remedies used against infectious skin diseases.

He said that the project aimed to collect and document the indigenous knowledge of medicinal plants used for therapeutic purposes in Sindh.

This knowledge is fast disappearing with time because of rapid loss of habitats, access to modern medicines, rural and urban migration, and changes in the life style of people, he maintained.

Dr. Atia-tul-Wahab said that during these field surveys, the complete remedies of medicinal plants were documented for the treatment of infectious skin diseases, e.g. some herbs were ground, soaked and eaten, some were applied topically, some were used for dressing bandages, while some herbs were used for taking bath to cure a certain disease.

“All districts of Sindh were covered through field work from where a total of 132 plants were identified. These plants are used by the villagers for their health related problems, in combination, from which few plant have shown high potency activity against fungal and bacterial infections after performing several bioassays. Several skin disease exudative samples were collected from these villages and brought to the PCMD Diagnostic Laboratory for pathological testing,” she said.