Poplar Pollen Sparks Allergy Surge In Kashmir

(MENAFN- Kashmir Observer)
Representational Photo

S rinagar- Residents from various parts of the Kashmir Valley are raising alarms over a surge in respiratory problems due to pollen produced by Russian poplar trees. The cotton-like fluff, containing the pollen, is causing a range of symptoms, including eye irritation, persistent sneezing, and breathing difficulties, with children being particularly affected.

“Every year as the spring arrives in the Kashmir, the Russian poplars start pollinating and release their cotton fluff into the air, thousands of people are taken ill. People are afflicted with allergies with symptoms ranging from congestion, runny or itchy nose, sneezing etc.,” said Shadab Abbas, a resident of Srinagar.


“I am myself allergic to pollen. The elderly and children are more prone to the infection. This leads to a substantial rise in the number of patients visiting hospitals which in turn leads to a spike in the sale of the anti-allergic medicines,” Abbas said.

Medical professionals ascribe allergy to the presence of pollen within the airborne fluff, which causes ocular irritation and incessant sneezing to grave respiratory impediments, particularly prevalent among pediatric cohorts.

“The pollen menace is still less in Srinagar than in villages. If I look outside the window all of our garden is covered by pollen as if it has snowed,” said Afreen, a student of Kashmir University from Sopore.

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Dr Khursheed Ahmad Dar, Medical Superintendent, Chest Diseases (CD) Hospital, Srinagar said that the patient inflow in the Outpatient Department increases during the season.

“Usually we witness a surge in the patients with allergies during this season of the year and there is a surge this year as well. People are complaining of allergies,” he said.

Speaking to Kashmir Observer, Pulmonologist and Ex-Director SKIMS Parvaiz Koul said that the pollen has the potential to cause allergies; it can also lead to conjunctivitis in the eyes and exacerbate asthma cases.

“People should use masks to prevent inhaling or ingesting it,” Koul said.

Many have called for the cutting down of the poplar trees, which were initially planted in large numbers for their fast growth and economic value, particularly for timber and plywood production.

“We need the authorities to address this problem seriously and remove these trees to prevent further health complications,” a resident of Srinagar send.

The administration has been requested to implement measures to mitigate the impact of this seasonal health threat. Suggestions include not only cutting down the existing poplar trees but also replacing them with less problematic species. Additionally, there is a demand for the immediate cleaning of public spaces to remove the accumulated fluff and reduce exposure.

In response, a senior official acknowledged the concerns and assured that steps would be taken.“We understand the severity of the issue and are considering various measures, including the phased removal of poplar trees and increasing public awareness about the problem,” the official stated.

Pertinently, the J&K High Court in June 2015 order, had observed that it was a“common knowledge that pollen seeds of this poplar
species adversely affect health of the general public, mostly of elderly people and children, adding that the pollen seeds of these trees had given rise to chest diseases in the Kashmir valley.” The court has ordered the non-native poplars eradication from Kashmir.

The Russian poplar brought from the US was introduced in Kashmir in 1982 as part of the Social Forestry Scheme. The reason for this was that it takes less than 15 years to mature as compared to 40 years for the Kashmiri poplar. So, it is considered quite lucrative in the timber trade. According to an estimate, there are about 20 million Russian poplars in the Valley now and their population is growing every year.

It has been around nine years since the High Court order banning the cultivation of these poplars but far from any reduction in their population, the trees are only growing in number.


Kashmir Observer

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