Every year in the month of May people across Kashmir are troubled by the pollen allergy. This year the problem for the people became even worse because the season falls in Ramadan.
The roads, streets and corners particularly in southernKashmir are no different with this problem. The falling of cotton flakes, whichresembles snowfall in densely populated poplar areas, has forced people to wearmasks while venturing out.
Thousands of Russian poplar trees are still intact inAnantnag, Kulgam, Pulwama and Shopian districts giving people tough time.
These trees are surprisingly still intact in hospitals,schools, colleges and other government offices. Hospitals across south Kashmirare recording a sudden and sharp spike in the number of patients, especiallychildren, with respiratory diseases.
During the holy month of Ramadan hospitals across southKashmir are jam packed with patients and people find no alternative exceptwearing masks and covering their face with handkerchiefs.
"Compared to other months the admissions with regards to allergiesand infections are on the higher side. Our ENT and paediatrics departments areoverloaded during this month," Dr. Abdul Rashid Parra, medical superintendentdistrict hospital Pulwama, told Greater Kashmir.
Every season Russian poplar trees release pollen thataccumulates in the form of cotton balls causing multiple allergies like runningnose, chest infections, eye allergies and skin rashes.
"It certainly intensifies respiratory diseases particularlyamong children, the cotton-like substance is an irritant that causes allergies.The irritation caused by the pollen results in running nose, red and wateryeyes," said a paediatrician from Kulgam.
An ENT specialist at district hospital Pulwama, Dr. IrfanAhmad, said, "Numerous pollens exist in the atmosphere so it is not only theRussian poplar which is the culprit. There are other carriers causing allergieslike lawn grass, Deodar, Budul, Kikkar and Chinar. Different people areallergic to different other pollens as well. It may be one factor but not theonly one."
Another doctor at sub-district hospital Tral said: "Thepatients suffering from allergies are advised precautionary measure likewearing masks, medicines include anti-allergic tablets and in case theinfection is high then anti-biotic is prescribed."
Despite orders by the Jammu & Kashmir High Court in 2015to axe all the Russian poplar trees, the administration has failed to removethese trees across Jammu and Kashmir.
"In various Bijbehara villages multiple notices were servedto people who own these trees but not a single tree was cut down byadministration during these years," said Shabir Ali, a resident of BijbeharaAnantnag.
"I can assure you that some trees were cut down from maintown Bijbehara and Anantnag but not a single tree was removed from outskirts,"he added.
Residents near Wazir Bagh and K.P road areas of Anantnagsaid the poplars create problem for everyone in the areas. Government fails tocut down these trees by themselves. People claimed to have sent multipleletters to administration and are waiting for action.
Students from different private and government schools alsosaid that the poplar creates severe health concerns for them. "We can't breatheproperly due to these pollens allergies. Most of my classmates are sufferingfrom cold, throat infection, pink eyes and fever. Now we wear face masks andhandkerchiefs to avoid these irritant pollens," said Abid Majeed, a 7th standardstudent.
According to a report, the Russian poplar is actually notthe tree variety of Russia. The poplar trees originate from the United Statesand were introduced in Kashmir Valley in 1982. It outnumbered the local poplarsand became popular because it grows quickly within 10-15 years compared to thelocal variety that takes 30-40 years.
Many people argue that Russian poplar trees should not beaxed because it boosts rural economy. "The Russian variety is vital and growsfaster than the local species. It is also a source of livelihood for manypeople particularly band saw owners and wood cutters. The wood of Russianpoplar is mainly used in the construction of housing roofs in the valley," saidMubashir Hussain, a band saw owner.