By Suhail Bashir

Time to Protect Endemism & stop misadventure of upliftment ban on walnut trees

The Jammu and Kashmir is endowed with a lot of natural resources and is rich in endemism. The biodiversity of Jammu and Kashmir is already facing lot of threats and pressures due to our misadventures, inaugurate of exotic species that directly have impact on endemism. The exotic species which are being introduced to satisfy the greed have direct impact
on the biodiversity of the area by their abnormal and uncontrolled growth. The losses that is being caused by these exotic species are irreparable, irreversible and permanent. The Walnut trees (Juglanssps.) have wide distribution throughout the world, boosts thestate’s economy and produces 98 percent of the total production of the country.Walnut is called ‘Gerdoo’ in Farsi, ‘Ceviz’ and ‘Koz’ in Turkey, ‘Akhrot’ in Hindi and ‘Doon’ in Kashmiri language.

The Kashmiri walnuts are widely known for their superior quality and taste, are not only popularacross the country but also in different parts of the world. The walnut tress thrive better in
hilly regions up to an altitude of 7000 feet. In Kashmir, walnut trees are abundantly found in kupwara and shopian region. The total area under walnut is 667053 hectares with an annual production over 71758 metric tons throughout the country. The cut down of walnut tress was not allowed under any circumstances and was safeguarded by Jammu and Kashmir
Preservation of Specified trees Act 1969. This Act was enacted for Prevention of cutting, as well as pruning of walnut tress even if they are stood on private land but they current move to uplift the ban on cut down of walnut trees will be proved fatal and disastrous.

The authorities of horticulture have made an assertion that we will replace the walnut trees with new hybrid species
for better production will be disastrous and the loss will be permanent and irreparable from ecological point of view.
These exotic species of walnut trees will not only impact the other species present there but will also lead to vegetation loss
and infertility by up taking the essential minerals at a rapid rate for growth. We have observed that addition of any exotic species to a particular area was never proved a good alternative like incase of planting Russian populous which was introduced by the authorities in 1980’s for rapid growth and better production of timber. The Russian poplar although fulfilled the greed and need but the effects were determential and it is fact that the pollution caused by the tree was very irreversible and also lead to many health issues like respiratory illness. The government of Jammu and Kashmir had decided to cut down all the Russian poplar trees to overcome the health issues caused by the tree and the government started many drives at local level to cut down the exotic Russian poplar tree. The horticulture department of Jammu and Kashmir also introduced many exotic varities of apple in place of our endemic species that not only drain the essential minerals for their growth and production but these varities of exotic species need more synthetic fertilizers which lead to soil pollution and ultimately water pollution by means of run off and leaching. The replacement of endemic species by the exotic ones is always lethal and have long term irreparable effects. The Kashmiri walnut tree holds a good position from ecological point of view and attracts lot of insects and birds by the colour and the foliage of the tree. The Kashmiri Walnut tree have a lot of medicinal benefits like we use the bark and leaves to treat many skin diseases. The trees are of vital importance in terms of quality across the world.

The walnut tree and other indigenous plants of Jammu and Kashmir need more protection by formulating more laws and levying more penalties on the violators. The upliftment of ban on cutting the walnut trees is absolutely unfortunate and worried. The government authorities should reconsider the statement made by the department of horticulture regarding upliftment of ban on cutting the old walnut trees across the region and to replace them by new genetically modified species while not considering all the ecological impacts and effects that will be caused by the replacement. The government should carry out a systematic study to consider all the Environmental impacts and characters of Kashmiri walnut tree before the upliftment of ban on cutting of walnut trees in Kashmir valley. If the ban will be lifted it will be an irreversible loss that can never be reversed even if we work for it. The current scenario of global warming and climate change focuses on afforestation and reforestation methods but to cut down or to promote cutting down of old trees is never a wise and sustainable concept that need to be embraced and supported.

Let’s Save the Kashmiri Culture the old Kashmiri Walnut Trees for a Sustainable Future.

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