Kashmir faces pollen problem on Environment Day

Kashmir faces pollen problem on Environment Day

Of Pollen problem, Diversity of Russian Poplar and the extinction of Kashmiri Poplar!!!

Ahmad Kashmiri

Pollen discharge commonly called as Frasse Fumbb (poplar cotton) has now become a severe irritation faced by people of Kashmir atleast for more than a month’s period in spring season when pollination takes place. Earlier we won’t face such kind of pollen irritation from poplar trees. It is said to have arisen only for last about 30 years that people experience pollen irritation from poplar trees. Yes, the reason is the discharge from a particular variety of poplar, called popularly as Roosi Frass (Russian Poplar), which has been planted and grown vigorously in valley during all these years, right from the day it was introduced in valley. The problem with we people is that we accept foreign things randomly without checking their suitability, applicability and the compatibility with the peculiar climate of Kashmir.

I remember the day when people crowded in horticulture houses for obtaining these poplar plants, perhaps then distributed by Social Forestry dept. through Horticulture Dept. The other day the plants were distributed at a secluded place to avoid crowding. I only succeeded in obtaining one bundle containing 15 to 20 plants each 1 to 2 inches in girth when an elderly familiar person pleaded my case (verbal recommendation) before the distributors. Now when these ‘Roosi Safedas’ are seen full grown everywhere and the pollen discharge has become a menace, I see people striving for these plants with same pace. We have not learnt any lesson whether this variety has benefitted us or proved harmful anyways. The pollen substance discharged from this particular variety is very troublesome and health hazardous. Experts reveal that this pollen material discharged from these specific poplar trees in large quantities causes irritation to lungs, throat, nose and eyes. Many people who are supersensitive to allergies prefer to remain indoors these days and use masks when going out of their homes or offices. School children too find it nausiatic and use masks in order to remain safe to some extent. The pollen substance discharged from Kashmir’s native poplar- Kaushur Frass, is not harmful and is discharged in negligible quantities as it is compatible with the environs of Kashmir-climate. The question whether this borrowed new variety of poplar has added to our economy or not or it has affected the native variety badly can be analyzed from the fact that this particular variety being non native to Kashmir has resulted In trouble as harmful pollen discharge irritates the body parts and the respiratory system of the human body causing sneezing, coughing, or more severe symptoms like allergic rhinitis, allergic asthma and even allergic conjunctivitis.’

Secondly for at least one month or more it causes a social frustration in people as this cotton shaped pollen substance runs after people in an awkward way causing discomfort and gets stuck to clothes while walking from one place to another and enters offices, shops and homes through windows and open doors. Though some people believe that this variety is economically beneficial to Kashmir as it grows faster than Kashmiri poplar and it gives soft timber for fruit boxes but for this one edge of economy the health of the people can not be put on stake. There are more demerits of this variety than its merits. Whileas Kashmiri Poplar-Kaushur Frass, has multidimensional benefits, it being native is environment friendly, more economic when seen in totality, grows taller than the other poplar varieties and is utmost strong and strapping for timber meant for construction purposes such as roof timber poles or rods etc. There is another variety of poplars grown in Kashmir locally called as Punjaeb Frass, the Punjabi Poplar, which fastly grows thicker in girth as compared to other two varieties but it being brittle in texture is not suitable for constructional timber and its branches and leaves posses a sticky resin that stains ones clothes and the body parts while coming in touch with it. Thus during the branch cutting season the climbers wear rough clothes for the purpose.

The thirty year cultivation of Russian Poplar in Kashmir has badly affected the sustenance of Kashmiri Poplar as people as well as the authorities are intentionally or unintentionally ‘ill of local’. The cultivation of Russian Poplar was followed on randomly and its harmful demerits are being ignored continuously. Moreover the roads widening across the valley particularly on Srinagar – Muzafarabad Highway and then alongside Narbal – Gulmarg Highway the marvelous scenic giant tall poplar trees were cut in large quantities, though this was part of road widening but it was yet another factor to reduce the population of this native treasure. Now the Kashmiri Poplar as compared to other varieties can be said as rare or more appropriately gasping for existence. It is very tragic that this treasure of Kashmir is going towards extinction that too in the times when to get the timber from forests has become a dream due to various reasons.

Last year, I in a newspaper story I read that some civil society group was intended to take the matter of ‘hazardous of Russian Poplar’ to the Court of Justice through a Public Interest Litigation(PIL) in order to get rid of poisonous pollen substance by banning the plantation of Russian poplar trees in Kashmir. But this year due to rainy weather there was comparatively less free fluffy substance seen in the atmosphere which was a temporary relief.

Till some civil society group Like Civil Society Forum of Kashmir (CSF) comes forward to relieve people from this trouble through a PIL, let us wake up on our own to say no to the plantation of health injurious plants and trees,. We the common people as well as our people who are at the helm of affairs must rise to the occasion to recognize the harm by foreign agents in this case the Russian Poplar and the benefits of the native things that in this subject is the Kashmiri Poplar- Kaushur Frass. The sooner we realize, the better it is. That too before any Plant Rights Activists brings any laws to cut such trees!!!

(Feedback at ahmadkashmiri@gmail.com)

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