Quinine Nongladew

  • Quinine Nongladew is a village named after the alkaloid quinine extracted from the bark of cinchona.
  • Quinine, its most primitive antimalarial avatar.
  • Cinchona is a plant belonging to the Rubiaceae family and classified as either a large shrub or a small tree.
  • The village, is about 70 km south of Guwahati, is on the highway to Meghalaya capital Shillong.
  • Meghalaya’s Forests and Environment Department has no records on the Quinine Garden.
  • The cinchona nursery was raised in the 19th century, probably around 1874, when Shillong became the British administrative headquarters for Assam Province.
  • The nursery on an unknown area fell into disuse by the mid-1950s, the plantation was not much of a success at it involved an exotic species brought from South America.
  • Large swathes of Meghalaya used to be, and still are, malaria-prone.
  • The British had the foresight to start the plantation to combat malaria and other diseases caused by mosquitoes.
  • One of the reasons is that the Forest Department has no control over the area where a few cinchonas grow uncared for.
  • According to the Indian State of Forest Report 2019, Meghalaya has a forest cover of 76.32% of its geographical area.
  • But the department lords over only 1,113 sq km forest area while the remaining 16,005.79 sq km is under community and private ownership.
  • Forest Department have no jurisdiction over Quinine Garden or whatever is left of it.
  • Recently the COVID-19 pandemic has generated interest among locals in the cinchona tree.
  • The villagers also sniff commercial gain if quinine goes on to become a source of cure for the disease, which is incurable for now.                                       

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