Recommends phasing out of poplar trees in vicinities of schools, hospitals, markets; Ban on planting female poplar trees
Srinagar, June 10: Amid soaring of COVID-19 cases in Jammu & Kashmir, a committee of experts has opined that fluff of poplar trees is unlikely to carry the virus, which has wreaked havoc across the globe.
In its report, the panel comprising from different subjects including trees, respiratory medicine has suggested that it is unlikely that that the fluff of poplar trees will carry COVID-19 virus as the droplet size allows the droplets to fall on ground immediately.
“The COVID-19 spreads through droplets and its transmission can occur by direct contact with infected persons and indirect contact with surfaces in the immediate environment or objects used on the infected persons. Hence, it is unlikely that the fluff of poplar trees can carry the COVID-19 virus as it is not airborne and the droplet size allows the droplet to fall immediately on the ground,” reads the report submitted by the committee to J&K government, a copy of which lies with the news agency—Kashmir News Observer (KNO).
The committee was headed by Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Mohit Gera.
The committee was set-up on directions of J&K High Court amid fears that pollens from poplar trees could be potential carriers of the coronavirus and could aggravate the pandemic in J&K.
It was mandated to examine the impact from pollen and fluff from poplar trees on human and desirability of felling these trees.
Locally known as “Fras”, the poplar trees are being cultivated in Kashmir and Ladakh for wood production. According to Forest Survey of India assessment, the estimated turnover of poplar based industrial sector in rural and urban areas of Kashmir is worth Rs 600 Crore per annum.
The number of poplar trees in J&K, as per FSI in 2011, was 1, 52,24, 845 of which 1,48, 94, 920 are alone in Kashmir Valley.
Other major findings
The committee also concluded that there is no linkage between the allergies/ asthma with the pollen or fluff of poplar trees which is also supported by scientific reports available on the subject.
“ However, the fluff (cottony seed) acts as a vector for dissemination of various substances present in the atmosphere during this season such as spores of bacteria, fungi, dust particles and pollen of other flowering plants growing in the area,” the report further states.
The report states that Government Medical College Srinagar has maintained that most respiratory diseases in Kashmir are due to dust particles suspended inside households.
92 percent people are allergic to house dust, 73 % to lawn grass, 65 % to pine tree pollen, 59. 3 % Chinar tree pollen and 18.2 % to poplar tree pollen, it states.
The committee has come up with a slew of recommendations for management of poplar trees in Kashmir.
It has recommended phasing out of female poplar trees planted by government departments in vicinity of sensitive places like hospitals, schools, market places within Srinagar Municipal Corporation or other similar cities/ towns in Valley.
It has also suggested banning of planting of all varieties of female poplar tress across Jammu and Kashmir.
The committee has also suggested that existing stock of female poplar trees should be procured by government through respective deputy commissioners with assistance from Social Forestry department and destroyed properly after paying adequate compensation.
“All poplar nurseries in Kashmir Valley should be registered with Social Forestry Department. There has to be a complete on raising of female poplar in all these nurseries,” the committee recommended.