Take a break from a car and board a bus

The article was originally published in Kashmir Reader: http://www.kashmirreader.com/take-a-break-from-a-car-and-board-a-bus-to-know-where-you-stand/

Take a break from driving

Saturday, 25 July 201

By Mir Faizan Anwar

Explosion in private vehicles has resulted in chaos on the Valleys roads. Traffic jams have become a common nuisance in the Valley and there is a dire need to look into the issue and devise practical ways to limit such an explosion. Here I am not advising anything which I don’t do. I don’t drive a car, instead I prefer to board a bus and reach places.
It is also because I have concern towards my environment. That is why I walk and walk and enjoy public transport. Buses facilitate sustainable transport as they are safe, respect the environment and reduce noise pollution.
A bus journey means one car less on the road. If more people take to buses, even just once a week, there would be fewer cars on the road, less traffic, less road rage, reduced stress for drivers and possibly of less accidents. Opting for public transport cuts personal greenhouse gas emissions. You help to promote cleaner air. You reduce the carbon footprint and contribute towards a greener Kashmir and the world.
Public transportation corridors are also natural focal points for economic and social activities which help to create strong neighbourhood centres that are economically stable, safe, and productive. Think of your social life. You meet friends, those uncles and aunties on a bus journey. You offer seats to the elderly and weak. It is a multifunctional space. If you wish to lighten your wallet beggars are there for you. Beggars of all sorts throng buses, though you hardly find a Kashmiri among the lot.
News updates of varied interests from politics to history, happiest and worst times, sharing light moments and fun, you get a broth of everything there. Often a single newspaper circulates the entire bus. In a life too busy to live some happy moments, buses offer you environs of sharing and care. They are also like mini-shopping complexes. You end up finding so many things which you missed while searching busy markets. You find mobile vendors selling different products from stationery to cold balms with huge discounts and offers.
Food delicacies come around every time you sit waiting for the engine to start up. The indigenous fast foods of Karre, Mounje, Gaer Gojji are never to be missed. Where on earth will you get medicinal minerals Pathar momia and Pathar salajeeth? Though difficult to ascertain quality of these, on-bus demonstration by their sellers will not permit you to overlook the product.
Catching a bus also means that you save money. Escalating fuel prices, increase in car payment loans, finding space in parking areas are major hurdles in a city, but public transportation diminish those burdens. If curious of learning traffic management in remote urban roads, buses can also give you a handy experience of that. That will strengthen your belief in the honesty of our traffic police and how they treat drivers, I mean bus drivers, which otherwise car drivers rarely experience.
For those who are busy driving all the time, take a break and board a bus, get down and walk, it might turn out to be quite a treat. Enjoy, while also reducing carbon footprints, and pollution. Motivate others alike. It is a small step towards a much bigger cause of ecological concern.

Celebrating an Eco-friendly Eid

The article was originally published in Greater Kashmir: http://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/op-ed/celebrating-an-eco-friendly-eid/192001.html
Eco freindly Eid

MIR FAIZAN ANWAR
July 17, 2015

The festival of Eid-ul-Fitr marks the end of holy month of Ramazan and the beginning of a new month in the Islamic lunar calendar. It is a festival of unity, brotherhood, peace and love.

While Eid celebrations are in the offing, the food delicacies and new clothing will be much talked about in every home. Eid brings us together with congregational prayers in Masjids, open areas and parks, get-together of families and friends at home or restaurants, helping and serving the less advantaged.

Drowned in celebrations, we often forget the environment, its fragility and value. Although all festivals bring peace and happiness, we always leave the environment tattered. The fun and entertainment blinds people. We spend luxuriously and waste profusely as clothing and food are consumed in excess.

The celebrations and festivity are often extravagant and cause pollution and harm to the environmental resources. The day starts with the special prayers whereby faithful gather to offer prayers. The congregational places after the ritual are often littered and empires of filth left behind.

Kashmiris particularly have the habit of cooking plush food in surplus. Special breakfasts of famed bakery varieties, lavish snacks to sumptuous lunches and extravagant dinners mark the festival days. The food often remains underutilized ending up in waste.

Ramazan always leaves with lessons of patience and generosity and ecofriendliness to teach. Islam is strictly against wastage of anything and even more so when wastage takes place due to extravagance.

Islam emphasizes a lot on social equality and a peaceful equal society. Extravagance is against the establishment of this equality. If a Muslim wastes some resources or provisions etc. by extravagance, he is directly wasting the haq of others, those who could have been satisfied by the wasted things. This leads to a vicious circle of wrong-doings and a big unwanted imbalance in the society, thereby creating a hindrance in maintaining equality among all.

How can it be justified that on one hand there are people who are not able to get their daily meals, while on the other hand there are people who eat half of their plate and throw the remaining half in the trash bin?

Allah Says in the Holy Quran (7:31): “O children of Adam! Attend to your embellishments at every time of prayer, and eat and drink and be not extravagant; surely He does not love the extravagant”. Further, Allah also says “Verily spendthrifts are brothers of the Shaytaan; and the Shaytaan is to his Lord, ungrateful” (17:27). Such is the abhorrence and hatred of wastage in the sight of Allah that He has declared the wasters and the spendthrifts as the ‘brothers’ of the Shaytaan, who is ever ungrateful to the Lord!

While planning for Eidul Fitr celebrations, it is now imperative that we need to think twice before buying, procuring any food items, clothing etc and taking environment into consideration. Small steps matter in order to celebrate an Eco-friendly Eid, such as buying and cooking food as per the requirement and number of guests to be served and avoiding the use of deadly plastic cutlery, plates, napkins, tissues etc. The underutilized food must be immediately distributed among the needy.

As people throng the community parks and other tourist destinations during Eid, we must strictly avoid throwing polythene and plastic trash around. Gulmarg and Pahalgam are under stress of pollution due to our waywardness. Let us change our ways and attitude towards festivity and wastage and celebrate this Eid and coming festivals in the right spirit of environmental ethics. May our every Eid be green and Eco-friendly.

Ecological concern as tribute to our historical sacrifices

The article was originally published in Kashmir Monitor dated 13-07-2015: http://www.kashmirmonitor.in/news-ecological-concern-as-a-tribute-to-our-historical-sacrifices-87264.aspx

Ecological concrn as a tribute to our historical sacrificesCorrigendum: Plz note- Instead of nature ‘learner ‘the newspaper has mistakenly tagged ‘Leader’ to my name which I am not. APOLOGIES for that.

Mir Faizan Anwar

Kashmiris have a distinction of being resistant and docile, yet belligerent and combative at the times. Kashmir is the only place in the history of mankind where not only the land and its soil, the abundant natural resources but also the people and their fortunes were sold. Numerous travelogues have been penned on Kashmir describing its emerald surroundings, its competent inhabitants and their struggles down the history. Not to forget of the prevalent conflict and turmoil which has left hundreds and thousands of precious innocent lives massacred while numerous orphaned and widowed. Still they have notably combated and opposed worst tyrannies, faced massive deluges and have been rising repeatedly.

That’s what Kalhana could say to this valiant and fearless spirit “the inhabitants of this land can be conquered only by spiritual force and never by brute-force of arms”. One of such historical examples is the day of 13th July 1931 when 21 Kashmiris fought the oppression and gave their lives. All these sacrifices and resistance movements are dedicated to this dazzling land of Kashmir and for our better tomorrow. All such endeavours have been to sustain Kashmir as peaceful and happiest place and ecologically stable.

Kashmir is Kashmir only because it is Kashmir. The alluring beauty and rich natural resources are its invaluable assets. Kashmir owes fame to its once serene environment, rich biodiversity, abundant waters, its snow clad sturdy mountains, vast backgrounds of meadows. But one questions if this is the same land which was nourished and fostered by our ancestors who struggled to keep it safe from tyrannical forces? Why is that we have overlooked and ignored their dreams of happiest, peaceful and ecologically stable Kashmir. Does our braveness educate us to violate nature rights and massacre fragile environment? One may answer emotionally with a big no but that will be utterly a false statement.

Ironically we have failed to keep the promises. We’ve in reality defied and disregarded the concerns of our ancestors, their motivating spirit and unimaginable love for this land. As a nation who have historically always stood up and overcome amidst thorny and hard times, Kashmiris have not yet arose against environmental devastation. We have not taken any stringent action against nature rights breeches nor realized the gravity of our mistakes. We are totally in slumber, deep sleep of ecological ignorance, despite the repeated signs and warnings.

Kashmir is undoubtedly facing serious environmental challenges. Looking around, gloomy pictures catch our sight. The tattered Valley, looted of its resources, its encroached water bodies, polluted streams, logged forests, mined mountains, barracked and picketed meadows are now defining present-day Kashmir.

One can better imagine the grave environmental crisis and climate change by the September flood fury, recurrent flood threats and prevalent strange weather pattern. Such calamites and misfortunes are our own sown seeds illustrated by miserable stories of Dal, Nigeen, Aanchar, Mansbal , Wular and other wetlands which have lost their potential soaking capacities.

Misfortunes follow misfortunes as if Kashmiris are not enough to rip apart this land on their own. Imagine the serious and critical threat to our forest resources looming at the hands of Armed Forces. The Forces stationed in the upper reaches have also not left any stone untouched alike local people in looting green gold and making deep inroads to the forests. The continuous shelling in meadows by the Armed Forces has turned Valley to a barren hell. For instance the Tosmaidan meadow is endangered due to unchecked shelling in the region putting human lives, wildlife and entire ecosystem into peril. There are similar stories of distress across the Valley in its every nook and corner.

Ecologically devastated Kashmir can never be reckoned as a real Kashmir. If a place is ecologically vandalized, it ceases to grow, develop and prosper. There remains nothing significant to take pride in or even boast of. There would be nothing like paradise on earth in near future if the wanton loot of its natural resources continues. Then what use we would put our sacrifice and resistance movement to as existence of nationalistic feeling is relegated to dust. For if the land we have loved and fostered is tattered, what will remain there to be struggled for. What will be there to get out of the clutches of oppression and which land we brag of making independent as a nation, if at all?

It is high time to avert further degradation of the environment. There is no other alternative. We need to stop polluting our surroundings, streams and the lakes. We have to put an end to axing natural forests and discontinue all that infringes upon nature rights.

The braveness with which we have faced the worst times, the same endeavours are needed for environmental concern as well. A similar approach of steadfastness, dedication and commitment has to be revived. Those patriotic and nationalistic feelings of our ancestors for this land have to be restored while taking care and nourishing it

The onus is also on leaders to gather support for ecological concern. The resistance movement is useless unless we protect what we are striving for. The leaders of various factions whose statements mean a final order for a large section of people can verily help in promoting ecological ethos. They should start motivating people towards environmentalism if they truly love this land.

Not just ourselves we have to guide others alike who visit Kashmir, in preserving the left out portions. Better late than never! Still there are chances of improvement even at this stage. Although it is difficult to restore lost glory to its zenith, we can atleast prevent further deterioration of environment by inculcating best ever ecological ethics and ways of life. That is how our historical sacrifices will get a fitting dignity and our ancestors’ dream of green and biodiversity rich Kashmir may turn into a reality, which could be obviously, a best tribute to them.

Mir Faizan Anwar

A nature learner

mirfaizananwar@gmail.com

Roaring Nature- a call for personal change

The article was published in Kashmir Monitor: http://www.kashmirmonitor.in/news-roaring-nature-a-call-for-personal-change-86392.aspx

Everything that surrounds us has purposeful balance. From tiny organisms that go unnoticed to giant mammals, microflora to mighty trees, deep oceans to towering mountains, there is a manner and framework. Space with unimaginable celestial bodies, the sun and the moon have perfection. In this puzzling universe, humans curiously have a significant position, top among  creatures’ list, the cream and jugular vein. However this wayward human has openly defied nature, looted its resources and left it screaming. It looks difficult to come out of bars and cages of greediness unless we introspect and understand the purposeful life
Mother earth has been tortured and beaten to death. There have been much nature right violations than human rights. Much water has over flown now. The course is changing now. Nature has its own watch mechanism looking for miscreants and eco-robbers. Ecological transformations have prompted nature to take its own measures Mother earth has shown from time to time how it can set things right and restore its lost glory. Yes it has already begun its course and set proposals. The recommendations are being followed and earth is turning harsher to its looters and robbers.
Who are these wanton looters and robbers slicing and ripping apart mother earth? Well that’s not so much hard nut to crack. It’s you and I, the culprits and yes victims too. While earth is being pinched and punched everywhere, Kashmir is not an exception. Infact Vale of Kashmir is more stressed and depressed with environmental challenges, yet we have not begun to recognize and realize the reality. We may pretend to stay ignorant even as bulldozing environmental ethics and laws of nature. Earth has cried enough of it often being ignored by us. But now such howls have turned to roars, which we cannot escape.
The September deluge in Kashmir has not so far faded from conscious memories of its inhabitants which left hundreds and thousands stranded and in utter distress. It was followed by strange winter. The last winter in Valley is supposedly to have been one of the drier ever witnessed. People prayed and asked for snow and rain during the dry Chillai Kalan. Nothing could move our petitions and litigations of snow cases. We had to proceed for wintery sun to lie basking alike brown bears. But then something happened. The retired Chillai Kalan for that season immediately had then something to offer. It snowed unusually in the month of March. However much could not stay intact and melted down in low lying belts instantly with shining spring sun. That time onwards Kashmir has not yet seen stable weather. The late winter extended to spring and now this summer with rains and chill. We are still in winter attire readying for Pheran and Kanger. It is nearing to be a year since the nightmarish and horrendous episode happened, and yet we have another flood threat, besides having faced few more alike since the major deluge. Thanks to Almighty, reportedly danger is over and Jehlum is said to be receding though sluggishly. Everyone is hopeful of bright sunny days ahead. So stays the much strong hope of peaceful and docile Jehlum. People infact have gathered for mass prayers, asking forgiveness and blessings.
Actions universally call for reactions. So has been true to the mother earth. Earth has tolerated enough of our greed and wanton loot. Time testing is over now. Earth has started reacting to highly catalysed actions. The recurrent flood threats are nothing but reminders from nature to stop depleting natural resources and encroaching water bodies. Wetlands in our Valley have seen the wrath of human loot. From encroachments to filling up, we have left Kashmir torn and tattered. We are verily witnessing climate change. The floods in Kashmir can be scanned only through environmental destruction. The degradation of environment encompasses encroachment of waterbodies and wetlands, wanton loot of forests, mining and destruction of biodiversity which have been repeatedly spoken about.
Additionally Kashmir’s distinction in natural resources and strategic location has thrown it to traps in the crossroads of conflict and hostilities between major Asian powers- India, Pakistan and China. The ongoing conflict torn state of Valley has tormented lives and triggered despair, anxiety and tension among inhabitants. With so much of waywardness in following basic rules over past few decades has not even left nature untouched. The charisma boasting Valley fell to the miscreants and eco-robbers. Lush and blossoming green wealth was put to axe and saws. The mountains were pierced and left tormented. Wildlife was ruthlessly massacred without any mercy. The wetlands were encroached- filled, levelled and impressive buildings constructed. The housing facilities and towering shopping establishments were painted on the natural landscape. Lakes of yore, crystal clear and pure polluted and invaded were converted to playfields and estates. The environmental tragedy of conflict era has been continuing and nothing much has improved. One can continue the list publishing volumes of gloomy Kashmir.
This calls for re-evaluation of our actions and a redirection of our energies towards the reduction or possible reversal of the alarming environmental crisis. In this backdrop glorious Quran calls on us to recognize our own contribution to the crisis. Allah says “Corruption has appeared throughout the land and sea by [reason of] what the hands of people have earned so He may let them taste part of [the consequence of] what they have done that perhaps they will return [to righteousness] (Quran 30:41).  According to the verse cited, Allah is giving us a taste of our own medicine so that we may return from the wrong paths we have taken in life. We have caused corruption on land and sea, and it is up to us to mend our ways. If we are to reverse the deterioration of our environment then we definitely have to make some hard choices and change our practices. In other words, ecological change calls for personal change.
Our present crisis calls on religious leaders to find faith-based messages that will inspire and motivate the faithful towards environmental awareness. There is plenty of content in the Quran and Hadith to meet this need. Furthermore as environment belongs equally to all humans irrespective of religions we practice, I look forward for religious heads of other communities as well to begin overhauling the environment through their sacred texts, help contain climate change and pacify the roaring nature. That is one of the most hopeful and strongest ways following which we can create awareness and bring positive transformation. What remains to be seen is the extent to which we will unite to this call for personal change.
(The writer, a researcher in Forestry can be reached at: mirfaizananwar@gmail.com)

I always wonder why hazel tree is not promoted in Kashmir

The article was published in Kashmir Reader: http://www.kashmirreader.com/i-always-wonder-why-hazel-tree-is-not-promoted-in-kashmir/

Friday, 26 June 2015 0:02 Written by: MIR FAIZAN ANWAR
I have grown up amidst fragrant flowers, buzzing bees, fluttering butterflies, chirping birds and brisk mountain breeze. Along the Jhelum river on the historical Muzzafarabad road in Baramulla, locally known as Varmul, rests the beautiful countryside of Gantamulla in the foothills of Pirpanjal.The close-canopied conifers, which surround our village, with meandering brooks, make our locale picturesque. It is an abode of all that mystifies souls with aura and beauty painted all over. Flowers of varied hues brighten up the beholder and make him fall in love with the nature. Like any other Kashmiri Bablaale, my great-grandfather was versatile and multifaceted with a keen interest in landscaping and architecture. The rich plant diversity around our home is in fact, amongst the treasures he left. While serving in the J&K government he would always have different destinations in his itinerary; travelling widely in erstwhile Kashmir up to Skardu and far. He carried back home lots of knowledge and research multitudes of flora in the garden. The fragrant flowerbeds and diverse apple, pear, pear plum, cherry and mulberry trees on one side, our garden also possesses a unique and lesser-known tree, the hazelnut. The tree is growing all-alone in our garden since it was planted by my great grandfather half a century ago.My tryst and fondness for hazelnut started right from the time I began to comprehend and appreciate my surroundings as a kid. Virin, as hazelnut is called in Kashmiri, always remained to me, as a child, a focal point of attraction. I have grown up under its shade playing with my siblings and cousins. Its long hanging flowers were my long time associates. In fact, then I never knew these bunches dotted on the tree would be catkins and had a gender. Hazel being monoecious has separate male and female flowers on a single tree. The female flowers appear as clusters while male as catkins.We would jump and strive to pluck as much catkins as we could for our childhood games of bananas and kebabs, until nuts were formed to gather them from the ground. Being just one lonely tree in our premise and in fact in the entire vicinity, its nuts have always been in the limelight. Neighbourhood kids still wait for fruiting time to collect the nuts stealthily. Its wide and dense shade still mesmerises us with fresh memories of long-gone days. Of those invaluable memoirs,spending Sundays under hazelnut shade, I vividly remember when our family barber would take us under the tree and trim our hair.Life has changed along different paths and varied angles but the loneliness of our hazel nut tree. Despite growing old it still stands firm and tall, reminding us of its worth. It is like our age-old family member looking after the fresh entrants of trees and fragrant flowers as its neighbours. To me it is historic and has long stories to tell about us.
I began searching for hazelnut beyond our garden, the time I joined Forestry as a student, several years back, trying to find if I could know which tree we have in our home. The tree until then was just Virin to me with crispy nuts, not even knowing its English name not to talk of Latin. This ignorance had always driven me to explore the invaluable hazel. It was in the college library I came across a book with lovely nuts of hazel on its cover page. That book opened up to me the mystery of old.I would also always search around for hazels in other places during my trekking trips; I do even now. Few years back I, along with my colleagues, happened to visit Gurez forests on a study tour. We trekked couple of days and there it was! Hazelnut caught my sight. It was unimaginably a great moment. I found the siblings of the lonely tree. That was the time I realised I wanted to end its loneliness and bring a new life to it. The state of affairs of hazel, its boredom, loneliness and emptiness is not just a story of our garden. Such a milieu is widespread throughout the Valley. Although Kashmir is blessed to have this tree, people hardly know its elegance and untapped value. In contrast in other countries hazelnut is a most sought after delicacy. The nut, which is veiled in beautifully woven husk, is a dreamer’s delight and naturalist’s love. Being highly commercial, trade of hazel is extremely profitable in foreign markets. With trees on farms under the banner of agroforestry making strides, hazelnut based tree-crop models can prove beneficial to farmers. It is not just those tasty and costly nuts that hazel comes with. It provides valuable timber and leaves for fodder while being a good soil binder. We must realise the potential of hazelnut and the transformations it can bring in our tastes, economy, landscape and biodiversity.
Let its solitude and boredom be over. The concerned authorities in the state need to bring it into the limelight and make it accessible. As I have planned to bring new young hazel friends in support of the grand old hazel in our garden, so should you all.
—The author is a Research Fellow in Forestry Feedbackmirfaizananwar@gmail.com

Axing Notorious Poplars

The article was published in Kashmir Life http://www.kashmirlife.net/axing-notorious-poplars-78946/

Prettiness of Kashmir is no secret. The verdant and flourishing coniferous forests enveloping the Valley and broadleaved trees in its plains create a mystic aura. Besides orchards of diverse fruits adorning the Valley, the majestic Willows and Poplars add to its exquisite and splendid beauty. It is certainly beyond words to pen down mesmerizing and enthralling Kashmir. While we cherish enthralling nature in the Valley, the news of axing Poplar trees along Boulevard considered being heritage and ecologically significant has stirred loud voices of anguish. The cries of conserving the strip of Poplars are being heard on account of announcement of auctioning these trees by the State government. The charismatic view that adorns Dal banks is partly because of majestic Poplars thriving there from years now. Undoubtedly the aesthetic values and ecosystem services of such a long belt of trees cannot be undermined. However, before jumping into argument of axing or not we need to dig deeper to unveil the ecologically important facts viz a viz Poplars in the Valley.

There are infact divergent views in backdrop of such a consideration by the government. Is it the hefty sum that lures government to start chopping? The economic benefits to be accrued as per the report though not substantially huge may not be considered the sole reason behind orders of felling the strip whereby the State is likely to reap a sum of Rs. 50 lakh. So what could be the other possible motive then? The government officials consider the felling to be in public interest which to a large extent is true. That is pretty rational. As put in news reports, officials justified the government order based on scientific grounds and in sympathetic solidarity with people who struggle with cotton menace. Is that true? Here is the point. Just few days to go and the Valley especially Srinagar will be seen painted with cottony mass all around. The pathetic environment of cotton needs to be looked into to justify felling of Poplars in the Valley in general.

Poplars in Kashmir were introduced as a part of Social Forestry project to meet the needs of farmers and industries such as veneer and ply board, envisaged to alleviate pressure on forests. Besides meeting commercial needs, Poplar plantation was also intended at soil conservation, biodiversity enhancement and beautification of avenues and roads. One such example of avenue adornment is the captivating Boulevard which is now a source of debate over felling the Poplars or not. Deplorably such an enormous plantation drive by the Forest department was a blind move given the ignorance shown during procurement of planting material. The Poplars which arrived in the Valley for massive plantation were actually the female individuals; the source of perilous nuisance not known then, became marked later. The Poplar most widely introduced was female cultivar of Populus deltoides called Rusi Frass in common parlance (Being a native of North America, the name Russian Poplar/Rusi Frass is a misnomer). The large scale multiplication of same clones of this female Poplar species vegetatively was just a matter of few years given its easy propagation through cuttings. It triggered the present day Poplar peril, engulfing the Valley in cottony fluff and fuzzes every spring spewing allergy and infections, besides being a fire hazard.

Here I may bring it to notice of common people for the sake of correct scientific jargon often misquoted by journalists and even concerned officials despite a series of articles published by forestry scientists and botanists in this esteemed newspaper and other local dailies, clarifying cotton floss as dispersed seed instead of pollen is misnomer. While seed is related to female counterpart of the plant, pollen is discharged by male. Given the absence of male individuals of Poplar deltoides in Kashmir, relating pollen to Poplars is utterly a wrong and ignorant proclamation. The pollen allergy no doubt a reality is the outcome of certain other species such as Robinia pseudoacacia. This however needs a separate write up. Poplar flowers emerge in elongated catkins drooping from tree branches in spring before the leaves emerge. Small round fruit capsules on the catkin split open, revealing small seeds surrounded by white cottony hairs. The wind catches the fluffy hairs and carries the seeds long distances from the parent tree, a manifestation of dispersal mechanism. Consequently the presence of large number of such female Poplars everywhere triggers fluffy storm. The seeds as I said are reported to usher in infections and allergy (attributing allergy to Poplar seeds is debatable though). However the health hazards are unquestionable and cannot be denied. Most pertinently, the respiratory ailments associated with the cotton stuff are seriously a matter of disquiet. Besides health issues, the seeds are absolutely nuisance for the environment, given the dense presence. The impacts are far and wide ranging from air pollution to contaminating water bodies which again call for a solid breakthrough intervention. The ecological vulnerability due to cottony structures of Poplars has put our Valley on perilous and tumultuous path earning status of troublemaker globally.

For now the terrifying outburst of Poplar is quite obvious. So how it related to the iconic strip of Poplar along banks of Dal lake. There is a dual opinion about the type of Poplar species dotting the Boulevard. While one group is promoting the notion that these trees along Boulevard are not notorious Populus deltoides, the other section advocates the presence of this particular species. Such a discord in opinions is simply bereft of exact knowledge about the species. The dispute can be resolved by seeking expert suggestions from the scientists of Faculty of Forestry SKUAST-K and Department of Botany, KU. A field visit involving scientists from the both varsities should be arranged in immediate effect to clarify status of species. The type of species and identification of male or female individuals can help resolving the issue of cacophony. Moreover just in few weeks, the flowering season will be on and the job is done! Moreover on the similar lines identification of Poplars should be started throughout the Valley.

Over to the issue of axing charismatic Poplars along Dal lake! The area with dense canopied trees is certainly ecologically significant. The aesthetic contribution and other ecosystem services cannot be ignored. Most importantly the amounts of carbon being sequestered and microclimatic amelioration are unbelievably noteworthy. For that matter the importance of any sort of trees anywhere is a well established fact. So that does not need declaration here owing to shorter space. I must say the stretch is dearest to each one of us and to tourists alike. The trees have been our part and parcel. We have grown with such images of Dal banks adorned with Poplars. But then should the current government order of felling the dazzling avenue trees sadden us? Should all those against the axing protest strongly? Wait! Wait until unanimous and agreed upon decision is made by all the stake holders from scientists and government to common masses. If the entire strip is found to have female cultivars of Populus deltoides under expert panel, let there be no hue and cry then. One may worry about undeniable ecosystem services and other ecological benefits accrued from these trees irrespective of status of species and whether male or female.

Remember the hazy and fuzzy spring in offing with fluffy discharge from the particular species. In that case we cannot simply come to protest its felling. The ecological disaster that Poplar seeds are set with is a serious concern. As said about its long drawn impacts, there is no other option other than to take axe in our hands. The menace is almost difficult to contain until the female cultivars are removed. This may seem weird and strange but we just need to dig deeper and open eyes to realize the burden our ecosystem is engulfed with. At this point we should not be emotional conservationists and naturalists. Think of panic and anxiety every spring we live with, and respiratory ailments we suffer with. Is that not an ecological threat putting in danger the health of masses and other perils of pollution already discussed? It is a global hazard. The ecosystem services which in that case may be sacrificed can just be ignored in a run to prevent perpetual menace. This will be for posterity

Better late than never! Regretting the blind move of propagating female cultivars of Poplars is not good every time. It is best time to look out for easy remedy of felling all the female cultivars in phased manner. The area may look ugly for few years but it will bring in fresh air in just short span given the fast growing native Poplars, more adaptable and ecologically viable. Subsequently male cultivars can be propagated once the female counterparts are felled completely. Moreover the propagation of native Poplar species such as Populus ciliata will be a boon as they are reported to produce less fluff during seed dispersal. This will further help in promoting indigenous species which is highly preferable ecologically. Besides this, the introduction of many hybrid Poplars are reported to be sterile and do not produce flowers which can verily be propagated, though it needs field trials and more research. Undoubtedly the molecular research in identification of preferable cultivars is need of the hour which can be fruitful in long run. We will again have charming boulevard with magnetic and towering Poplars (given the idea of planting Poplars instead of conifers). Not only Boulevard, entire valley should get involved in phasing out this burden, ushering in healthy ecological signs. This infact is a long drawn briefing between forestry scientists and the department.

On the other hand, if boulevard is found to have native species and male cultivars of Poplar, axing should be strongly protested. In that case, chopping down trees would entirely be an unscientific move. The scientific community along with common masses should, if such a matter arises, come forward and stop the felling. At the same time we should not forget to clear-fell the particular Poplar entirely from the Valley as mentioned, keeping aside the Boulevard issue. So I have put forth the two situations. Both the moves have significance whichever found true after proper technical field visit. It is urgent to survey the area and find out true status of Poplars to arrive at undisputable decision. Once the situation is ascertained immediate action should be taken whether to have Poplars along Boulevard or not, only after scientific reckoning. Looking at both sides of axing will prevent drowning into common regret. Let Boulevard trigger the scientific community to study in depth the vulnerabilities Kashmir’s fragile ecosystem face. The scientific study should be started on similar lines. This would further help in formulating policy and bringing in legislation for phasing out menace once for all. Let us stand for ecologically stable and healthy Kashmir.

P.S. As per the recent news reports, the J&K High Court directed all the Deputy Commissioners to order immediate removal of fluff producing Poplars across the Valley which infact is a healthy move and meets the long pending demand. Notwithstanding the order, the Boulevard issue needs to be looked into cautiously as mentioned.

Mir Faizan Anwar

Research Fellow in Forestry

May, 2015

Trees for Life

Our mother earth is dotted with bountiful natural resources and riches of biodiversity. The flora and fauna are intricately interdependent on each other. The survival of one is essential for the other’s life, nourishment and perpetuity.

Of all the biodiversity, plants are the one of the most beautiful and important life forms on earth. The plant life is very diverse encompassing algae to angiosperms, bryophytes to gymnosperms. The beautiful and fragrant flowers around us are the witnesses of immense charisma of plants and of nature. The tall and versatile trees standing distributed round the globe are the lifeline of perpetuity and sustenance of world.

Trees are for life. They give us oxygen for survival. They are the masters in storing carbon and thus save the earth from the vagaries of climate change. The wide and colossal uses we put trees to and their products can’t be expressed. While trees stand to protect this earth and its habitants, their job as climate change mitigation doers is highly appreciable and widely accepted.

The drastic change in climate world over is believed to be due to increased emissions of green house gases which include carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide and few others. The increase in level of green house gases promotes the phenomenon of green house effect, resulting in warming up of the earth. This is the sole reason why temperatures are soaring with each passing day. The global warming has accelerated the melting of snow, putting the coastal regions and island nations in danger for the threat of uninvited sea level rise and thus the submergence.

This severe transformation in climate is manifestation of recent decades which witnessed the unprecedented proliferation of industries and factories round the globe. Scientists and policy makers have been from long time drawing up scientific interventions and plants to mitigate the climate change and save this charismatic and beautiful earth.

The most important and potent idea put forward is Carbon sequestration- to capture and store carbon. This is the one of the viable options and much easy job that trees do.

Mir Faizan Anwar

(Nature lover)

September, 2014