the beauty of Kashmir, and have remained a major attraction for tourists. Sadly, their numbers have fallen by half since the 1970s.
Waking up to the fact, the Jammu and Kashmir government has launched a drive to plant chinars, popularly known as 'bune', all over the state. The legislators took the decision at the recently held budget session here.
On March 1, celebrated as Chinar Day, Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad planted a chinar sapling at a girls' school in uptown Srinagar. He has made the planting of chinar saplings a part of his visits to educational institutions.
"We must plant trees if we want to save our environment and future," Azad told IANS, adding that during his school days no one used to ever buy apples from the market, for there were so many trees then!
A dramatic fall in the number of chinar trees from 40,000 in the 1970s to a little over 19,000 now has alarmed the concerned departments. A worried government has launched the programme of planting chinar saplings on a large scale.
In the Jammu region, chinars dot the landscape of the Rajinder Singh Park on the Canal Road. A few Chinar trees can also been seen in the green belt area of Gandhi Nagar.
Kashmiri historians point out that the chinars were brought from Central Asia by Mughal kings. Some say that Mughal emperor Jehangir nourished the 1,000 chinar trees planted in Naseem Bagh - presently the Kashmir university campus - with milk.
There was a time when the Kashmiri youth enjoyed spending endless hours under the shade of chinar trees in Srinagar, with the breeze blowing in from the Dal Lake.
A number of Bollywood movies and songs have been shot with chinar figuring in them in a big way. According to M S Wadoo, author of The Trees of Our Heritage, the largest and oldest chinar tree stands at Chattergam Chadoora in central Kashmir in the garden of Sufi saint Syed Qasim Shah's shrine.
Wadoo cautions Kashmiris against the environmental hazards caused by indiscriminate felling of trees. "If we do not care for trees today, we will turn our beautiful state into a parched land."