Cotton-shedding poplar trees dotting long scenic roads in rural and urban Kashmir will be a passé now. A source of anxiety, irritation and diseases in summers, the government has banned further plantation of Russian poplars.
"Allergies due to these trees have become a source of health hazard. The government has ordered blanket ban on fresh plantation of Russian poplars in Srinagar with immediate effect," said Srinagar's district magistrate Farooq Ahmad Shah.
Poplar dotted roads, which caught fancy of Bollywood songs like 'Yun Tou Hum Na Lakh hansi…' are posing severe threat to locals' health. Sneezing, coughing and complaints of throat irritation and fever have become common these days. Even tourists complain of anxiety and allergy.
With the onset of summers every year, populus deltoids, a female poplar variety introduced in Kashmir in 1982 from the US, sheds cotton like material carrying seeds causing allergy and respiratory disorders.
Besides this species, Russian poplars also produce pollens in bulk, which keep hanging from trees for days together.
Unlike Kashmiri poplar trees that takes 40 to 50 years to grow, populus deltoids grows within 10-15 years. It is cultivated for quick monetary benefits and is used in constructions and woodwork.
"All indigenous Kashmiri varieties were harmless," said Dr Nazir Masoodi, an agriculture expert.
Dr Muhammad Salim Khan, a consultant at the Community Medicine of Srinagar's Government Medical College, said this summer the pollens once again largely affected the newborn and asthma patients.
The falling of this cotton, which resembles snowfall at densely populated poplar areas, has forced people to wear masks while commuting or venturing out in open.
Alarmed, the government has sought time-bound report from experts on devising a mechanism within 15 days for uprooting the existing Russian poplars to prevent the pollen allergy.
"A strict action will be taken against those found violating the directive. The police, revenue and social forestry officials will enforce the ban immediately," said Shah.
A valley based study shows that of 46 poplar species, 26 are known to cause allergy.