Seeds from Myanamar!

The LATEST, preposterous suggestion is that I have something to do with the illegal export of seed from 'sensitive environments in Myanamar!  I can categorically state I have never been to Myanamar (never had any wish to visit this country), know nobody in Myanamar, have never received seed from Myanamar and was not aware that there were any sources of seed from Myanamar.  As most of Myanamar is tropical or sub-tropical, then seeds from such regions are of no interest - I have specialised in seed which will prove hardy in European and North American gardens.  Even most of the Northern hills of Myanamar (according to Wikipedia) seem "warm" to me - and surely are very dangerous to visit!  I really have no knowledge of this country or anyone who has visited there!  A mystery to me!  Not quite true, a specialist travel company did send me (for some inexplicable reason, as I could never have afforded to go on any of their tours) a brochure which included river cruises in Myanamar (Burma) - which were somewhat controversial at that time....  Just what is going on?  For the record, I have also never been to Tibet (I have been to 'Little Tibet' - which is Ladakh and the borderlands of Tibet (India, Nepal, Bhutan) and even 'Western Tibet' (which is Ladakh, Lahoul, Spiti) and know nobody in Tibet; I did meet some Tibetans at MEN-TSEE-KHANG, His Holiness The Dalai Lama's Medical & Astrological Institute, Dharamsala, Northern India - when I lectured there.  The Indian Government should be commended for accepting/taking in such Tibetan refugees - in very large numbers.

By the way, the Indian Government should also be praised for recognising TIBETAN MEDICINE as one of the country's health systems.  It also permits Tibetans (foreigners) to gather roots, the whole plant, fruits and seeds of many Himalayan species for use in their formulations (which use between 3 and 150 plant ingredients) to treat Tibetans (and any others wishing to be prescribed such treatments).  Doctors of traditional Tibetan medicine (amchis, dungtshos and so on) are trained and collect in a responsible manner, NOT destroying populations of wild species; the same cannot be said for illegal smugglers who damage wild plant populations - most of these are Indians within Indian territory and probably Nepal as well - or Indians are those who ultimately buy medicinal plants dug up in Nepal.

Azad Kashmir viewed from Indian-controlled Kashmir


Although doctors of traditional medicine, whether working alone in an isolated valley or for such places as the National Institute of Traditional Medicine at Thimphu in Bhutan (or from Men Tsee Khang, India) collected responsibly, there is continuing demand and I know that Bhutan e.g. wishes to keep its traditional health-care system based upon their version of Tibetan Medicine - so the demand/pressures to gather MORE material to made the herbal medicines, continues.  This is what led to the 'CULTIVATION OF MEDICINAL PLANTS FOR TRADITIONAL MEDICINE PROJECT' in Bhutan in the 1990s - for which I was a consultant to The Royal Government there.  The objective was to grow as many species used as possible, to reduce pressure on wild populations.  Not surprisingly, this proved more difficult than anticipated, as I explain elsewhere on this web-site.

BUT I REPEAT A FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH, AND I UNDERSTAND THIS BETTER THAN ANYONE ALIVE, SENSIBLE/INTELLIGENT SEED COLLECTION DOES NOT DAMAGE WILD POPULATIONS OF PLANTS IN THE HIMALAYA.  OTHER THINGS DO, WHICH I EXPLAIN ON THIS WEB-SITE AND IN MOST PARTS OF THE HIMALAYA INCLUDING THE WESTERN HIMALAYA, NOBODY (INCLUDING ME) ACTUALLY KNOWS WHICH ARE THE RARE PLANTS!!!!  THE SPECIES WHICH ARE CLAIMED TO BE 'RARE AND ENDANGERED' WITHIN C.I.T.I.E.S. FOR EXAMPLE, ARE NO SUCH THING!  I KNOW BECAUSE, I CAN RELIABLY IDENTIFY THESE SPECIES AND ACTUALLY GO INTO THE MOUNTAINS TO SURVEY.  IT IS RATHER DIFFICULT TO ASSESS THE ABUNDANCE (OR NOT) OF A SPECIES, IF YOU FIRSTLY CANNOT RELIABLY IDENTIFY IT AND SECONDLY SPEND MOST OF YOUR TIME IN AN OFFICE.  I KNOW OF CLAIMS THAT CERTAIN HIMALAYAN SPECIES WERE 'ENDEMIC' TO A PARTICULAR STATE IN INDIA, WHEN I HAD SEEN THEM GROWING ABUNDANTLY IN THE NEIGHBOURING STATE......

As to what 'sensitive' environments mean?  I am uncertain.  As I say, I cannot speak about Myanamar having never been there nor know noting about its flora.  The same applies to Bangladesh, which has also been 'connected' with me.  I have passed through Bangladesh using Biman Airlines to reach Nepal; this involves connecting flights from or back to London at Dacca (yes, I have stayed overnight in a hotel in Dacca but that is it and I know nothing about the flora of Bangladesh). 

So does this mean environments in political sensitive regions e.g. borders?  I have been to border areas in a number of parts of India, including Kashmir in 2012, when I experienced first-hand the concerns of the Indian army and police as to suspected militants crossing the border with Pakistan.  Kashmir remains a disputed territory.  Or does it mean 'sensitive' in terms of the presence of vulnerable/'rare & endangered' species?  But it cannot be the latter, as I explain on this web-site, very few, if any, parts of the Himalaya is the flora sufficiently studied to accurately assess whether they are 'sensitive' flora-wise.  Returning to Kashmir, I visited Gulmarg (where I had camped in the 1980s).  Wow, it has changed - though very much for the worse.  A GONDOLA has been constructed at considerable cost.  This has brought tens of thousands of Indian tourists, causing untold damage to the environment.  IF this, which certainly is politically sensitive, as it is close to the border with Pakistan, is considered environmentally 'sensitive' why build the gondola?  Not far from the gondola I noticed a large area of mountainside was ruined due to extraction of material presumably for road-construction in Kashmir?  I did not look closely.  In between the gondola and this eye-saw remained an un-spoilt stream with attractive flowers close-by but for how long?

A delightful CORYDALIS growing by an un-spoilt stream in Kashmir - but for how much longer?


Perhaps certain people do not want me to see things and comment upon them?  Don't we PRAISE reporters who share with the world such concerns?  Why not me?

'Hooker's Iris' growing beside a stream in Kashmir

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