Come spring, the authorities in the Kashmir Valley brace up to chase female allergy-inducing species of poplars once imported from Russia and the US to keep the air clean for locals.
Srinagar's top administration on Sunday met at the instruction of deputy commissioner Farooq Lone to review the clampdown on those who still grow the banned poplar trees after experts declared it a hazardous last year.
A top government official said 415 saplings of Russian poplar were seized and destroyed. "Around 1,717 poplar trees have been cut down in various areas of Eidgah, Shaltang and Chanapora," said the official.
The deputy commissioner's office has directed people "to cut down all the Russian poplar trees standing in their property within this month."
All tehsildars in Srinagar have been asked to "strictly implement the orders issued regarding sale, purchase and plantation of Russian poplar."
Once Bollywood's muse, the cotton-shedding poplar trees would dot all major highways in the valley.
Most iconic songs like 'Yun Tou Hum Na Lakh Hain' from 1957 blockbuster movie 'Tumsa Nahin Dekha' was shot with poplars in the background forming a canopy and a green wall.
Over the period of time, these cotton-shedding poplars became a source of anxiety, irritation and diseases in summers.
Dr Muhammad Salim Khan, in-charge community medicine, Government Medical College Srinagar, said, "These poplars cause allergy of respiratory system leading to cough, rhinitis (running nose) etc. The pollens largely affect the newborn and asthma patients. If the asthma patients constantly suffer from allergy, it can even cause serious problem."
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.
A valley-based study shows that of 46 poplar species, 26 are known to cause allergy.
The special drive against female Russian polars comes just days after the state High Court directed the government to ensure a complete ban on sale, purchase and plantation of Russian poplar trees within Srinagar district. The court on Thursday asked the administration that the existing trees, if any, be removed within a month.
On February 3 this year, the court had asked district magistrate Srinagar to file report on implementation of his order of February 28, 2014, banning sale, purchase and plantation of Russian poplar trees within the limits of Srinagar district.