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Leh berries to dot Himalayan deserts by 2020

Leh: The Union Environment and Forests Ministry and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) have launched a major initiative for sea-buckthorn (popularly known as Leh berries) cultivation in the Himalayas.

According to the Leh Declaration, with an initial funding of Rs.25 crore in 2011 for preparatory work and a pilot programme in five districts, the aim is to bring a million hectares under cultivation by 2020.

The declaration was adopted on July 14 at the conclusion of a workshop for stakeholders, organized by the Union Environment and Forests Ministry and the Defence Institute of High Altitude Research.

“The new initiative could have a significant effect in all the Himalayan States, especially in Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh, where the cold deserts comprise 40 per cent of land area,” said Jairam Ramesh, Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests.

Women’s self-help groups in Jammu and Kashmir and other states will be roped in for the project, which is expected to provide employment opportunities.

India currently has only 11,500 hectares under sea-buckthorn cultivation, an area that is far outstripped by other countries where the plant is indigenous.

Sea-buckthorn berries can be used for medicinal and nutritional purposes and is also useful for soil conservation.

The DRDO also has a factory in Leh to manufacture a multi-vitamin herbal beverage based on sea-buckthorn juice.

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