Falls are the second most common cause of injury-associated mortality worldwide. Walnut trees are found almost everywhere in Kashmir. Falling from a walnut tree, which is pretty tall is one of the major causes of grievous injuries and leading cause of seasonal deaths in Kashmir.
Walnut is one of the chief indigenous products of Kashmir and is considered as Pride of Kashmir’s dry fruit; falling from walnut trees is most common among Kashmir in the harvesting season.
Walnut trees are huge and tall that grow up to the height of 50–60 ft and the bark of these trees is very slippery. When the walnut cultivators climb these trees carrying a long stick in their hand to hit the fruit, they lose their balance resulting in a fall from tree.
The fatalities and the injuries caused by falling from walnut trees are on rise in the harvesting months of August and September, taking toll on young lives, thus making it a seasonal occupational hazard and the same time impose large financial burden on our health system.
I am a medical student, posted in the CT-Scan section of Government Medical College, Anantnag. Every day, we receive at least five patients, who are robust males and have a history of fall from walnut trees due traditional outdated methods employed in our region for harvesting these trees.
Cervical spine injuries are the most common injuries reported followed closely by brain contusion and pulmonary dysfunction. Many patients have multiple injuries. The mortality rate is about about 50%. 20% of patients are rendered paralysed for life. To my knowledge in past few days, nine persons in Kashmir have lost their lives and the number of injured patients is also high. It is really heart-breaking to see young lives being lost like this.
Government must come up with some ideas about preventive measures including educating walnut cultivators about the safety measures. Many lives could be saved if the farmers are educated and more scientific methods based on common sense used.
One such method can be manufacture of tree stands about 30 ft above ground and use of non-slip boots. Use of safety harnesses such as head gear, chest and abdomen gears is recommended. Trained professionals should be provided with licences and without licences it should be prohibited to climb such tall trees, this will lead to a dramatic decrease in mortality and morbidity caused by falls from walnut trees.
And in the end a quote from, Lois McMaster Bujold: “The dead cannot cry out for justice. It is a duty of the living to do so for them.
Majid Yousuf, a Radio diagnosis student at GMC Anantnag.