There are increasing complaints regarding pollen-related infections in Kashmir Valley. The female trees of the poplar Russian species, known vernacularly as ‘Russi’, shed a cotton-like substance which is perceived by many people as an allergen.
Actually, opinion is split over the felling of the trees with some experts contending that the axing is without any sound scientific basis and that there was need for a proper cost-benefit analysis.
Others, mainly pulmonologists, stress on cutting the female trees, considering the allergies the poplars allegedly trigger in the Valley during late spring.
Almost a decade ago, the High Court of J&K and Ladakh had observed that it was a “common knowledge that pollen seeds of poplars of Russian species adversely affect health of the general public, mostly of elderly people and children and that the pollen seeds of these trees had given rise to chest diseases in the valley.”
The top court of J&K and Ladakh had thus ordered the non-native poplar’s eradication from Kashmir.
In 2021, the government constituted a “Poplar Commission” to look into the various aspects of introduction, cultivation, utilization and regulation of poplars in Jammu and Kashmir.
Headed by Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (HoFF) , the Commission had been tasked to formulate a policy.
Whether or not any policy stands formulated, there is need to look into all aspects including measures needed to prevent the nuisance, especially during late spring season.
One cannot ignore healthy effects on the economy, environment and reduction of pressure on the valuable forests due to poplar trees. The annual quantum of poplars being used in fruit industry, building constructions, Plywood industries, furniture industry on a conservative scale is huge. Also thousands of people depend, directly or indirectly, for their livelihood. There is need to see if there is a need to plant more poplars, of course those who do not shed cottony seeds, so that this industry sustains for a long time. Plantation is without doubt always a good move to combat, among others, global warming. Poplars besides benefits of revenue generation also are useful in carbon sequestration, ecological wastewater treatment systems, stream bank stabilisation, soil building, biofiltration, soil erosion control, etc. While there is a need to value the importance of poplars in terms of environmental cleaning and economical value, those species proving troublesome to people need to be axed or scientific means worked out to prevent the nuisance.