Preliminary census of Chinar trees in J&K: One third of J&K’s state tree Chinar diseased or damaged; may be lost in 10 years
The Chinar census team of Forest Research Institute (FRI), which concluded its preliminary findings in spring after two years, found a worrying health status of J&K’s state tree
A preliminary census of majestic Chinar trees in Jammu and Kashmir has enumerated 18,000 trees with at least one third of them found diseased or damaged which may be lost in next 10 years prompting a wave of worry among the experts.
The Chinar census team of Forest Research Institute (FRI), which concluded its preliminary findings in spring after two years, found a worrying health status of J&K’s state tree.
“So far, we have counted and geo tagged 18,000 Chinar trees of which 30-40% are about to die. At least 30% will not survive for another 10-20 years,” said Dr Syed Tariq, coordinator of the Chinar census project of the FRI.
Chinar, which is found in almost every village in Kashmir, is also known as the Oriental plane or Platanus orientalis (in scientific binomial nomenclature). Called Chinar or Chenar in Asia and Boueen in Kashmir, it grows up to a height of 30 metres and girth of 10 to 15 metres at ground level; it takes around 150 years to grow to its full size.
The dire health condition of these at least 6,000 trees is not only natural but also man made.
Tariq said they found the tops of these trees broken and their bases hollow. “There are deliberate attempts to dry and burn them. In many cases, the space of the tree base has been choked due to constructions and also there are damages due to natural hazards,” he said.
The expert said in 20% of the cases, they observed a fire had been lit near the base of the trees to slowly kill them so that people could go on with their other activities or constructions. “Even sanitary workers burn the litter near the trees,” he said.
There is a ban on the cutting of the tree in the Union territory unless it is a threat to life which is then provided by the revenue and district admin officials after following an official procedure.
Tariq said the procedure needs an overhaul as there was a need to include ‘tree risk assessment’ in the procedure which can be done by people who are botanical or forest experts not just from revenue. “We saw trees reduced to stumps in the name of branch cutting,” he said.
He said there are chances of saving some one-fifth of these damaged trees if there are governmental interventions.
“There are standard procedures to save the damaged or bent trees like guying or applying ropes. Similarly, there are other procedures to increase the longevity of these trees from a decade to many more decades,” he said.
The tree census also confirmed the fears of dwindling number of the tree, which was once estimated to be 42,000- 45,000, owing to various natural and man-made factors like constructions, developmental projects and increasing urbanisation.
Tariq said they have enumerated the trees in all 10 districts of Kashmir valley but have left some areas uncovered within the districts and also in Jammu division’s Chenab circle owing to the financial limitations of the project.
“Our census was preliminary and that is why we could geotag just 18,000 trees but there would be at-least another 7,000 trees which need a follow-up supplementary project which we have already floated before the government,” he said.
Geo-tagging is the process of appending geographic coordinates to media based on the location of a mobile device. Geotags can be applied to photos, videos, websites, text messages, and QR codes, and could also include timestamps or other contextual information. The geo-tag project of the tree is like Chinar Atlas of J&K.
The team found tree clusters at many places including a 700-tree cluster at Wangath in Ganderbal. Similarly, Kashmir University has a tree cluster and there is another 150-tree cluster in Dachigam National Park.
“As development grew in the city and urban areas and Chinar faced the brunt, forest areas are coming to the rescue of this tree,” he said.
The census, which started in spring of 2021 and its preliminary stage was wound up this spring, has already thrown up some startling revelations. Last year, HT had reported how the census brought to fore the existence of trees that are much older and larger than what was earlier a 700-year-old Chinar in central Kashmir. The Chinar census team of Forest Research Institute had found older trees, including one which appears to be nearly 1,000-year-old and is located in Budgam itself.