Kargil looks set for an image makeover. Infamous for border conflicts and war threats, this small town in Jammu and Kashmir is emerging as a potential destination for aromatic plants, whose oils fetch a handsome price in the market.
Scientists of the CSIR institute — Jammu's Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine (IIIM) — have successfully carried out a trial of cultivating several aromatic plants and are now gearing up for May, when they will begin large-scale cultivation.
Besides generating employment and empowering women in the second-coldest place in the world, the move is expected to spruce up the economy of Kargil, situated 200 km from the state's summer capital Srinagar.
The window period for cultivation and harvesting is only six months as the area remains cut-off for the remaining part of the year.
"We will create farmers' groups, provide processing technology and build a mechanism for a buy-back arrangement from the industry. For more than a year, we have carried out the trials and they have been successful. Our long-term goal is to create a cultivation mechanism for high-value spices," IIIM director Ram Vishwakarma told HT.
Suresh Chandra, the team leader of the project, said, "In the last two years, we have successfully carried out the cultivation of rosemary, lavender, varieties of mentha, salvia and vetiver (khus) in Drass, Gurez and Kargil. We have also established a distillation unit in Drass for extraction of oil."
Zareena Bano, 35, a resident of Kargil, who has supervised the cultivation of these crops in the region, said the project would help create jobs.
"Besides generating employment, it will help the women gain self-confidence. I am looking forward to May when it will become a reality."