Kashmir Indepth

Kashmiris fear “Russian poplar” can become potential carries of the deadly Covid- 19 virus

Arjumand Shah

Srinagar, Mar 31 (KINS): With the alarming increase in Covid-19 cases across the country and especially in Kashmir region, an aggravating factor “Russian poplar” is ostensibly on its way to the valley, which according to the local people can make the elimination of this pandemic almost indomitable.

In May every year, hospitals and doctors in the Kashmir Valley find themselves treating a high number of patients, especially children, with respiratory diseases.

The patients complain of sore throat, cold, cough and fever. While a common cause is pollen shed by various plants, the spike in illness has often been attributed to a phenomenon during this season, the shedding of fluffy cotton-covered seeds by poplar trees, commonly known as “Russian poplars”.

The experts and the local people are suggesting that the cottony pollens can become potential carriers of the deadly virus which has claimed approximately 34000 people worldwide.

One of the senior citizen here in Srinagar, Mohmmad Aslam told KINS “, “The fluff from Russian poplar is one of the main aeroallergens that causes asthma, eye allergies and other pulmonary diseases”.

Another local, Waseem Ahmad from Bemina Srinagar said, “We have too many of these trees, if the apprehension of spread of Covid-19 through the cottony pollens of Russian poplar proves right, then it will be a catastrophe of unimaginable magnitude.”

“It is seriously a concern for us at this time. Pollen from Russian poplar are as usual a problem, now in times of Covid- 19 spread, concern has increased tremendously among the people,” Showkat Ahmad from Barmullah told KINS.

“The initial symptoms of the pollen resemble somewhat with the covid-19. I believe this will put people in fear and suspicion,” said Hussain from Anantnag.

In 2014, a Srinagar resident approached the High Court with the complaint that his neighbour had planted “Russian poplars” near his home and pollen from the trees was causing allergy in his family, especially his ailing mother and his children. The applicant sought removal of the trees. The court banned sale, purchase and plantation of the female “Russian poplars” in Srinagar.

In May 2015, the court directed all Deputy Commissioners of the Valley to chop “Russian poplars” across Kashmir, saying the health of the general public is of “paramount importance”. “It is a common knowledge that pollen seed of Poplars is adversely affecting health of general public, mostly of elderly people and children. The pollen seed of these trees has given rise to chest diseases in Kashmir, which can become life threatening for them,” the court observed. Citing Article 21, the court also observed: “The right to life can become meaningful, only if a person is healthy.”

In May 2016, the court sought compliance of its order. Following the directive, lakhs of “Russian poplars” were cut down in various parts of the Valley, especially Srinagar city. However, the livelihood of thousands of Kashmiris associated with this tree didn’t let the order be implemented properly. Now the experts suggest that timely pruning may help in combating its allergic properties.(KINS)

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