By Mussadiq Mubarak Thakur:

I am writing this letter to express a great concern of mine regarding the excessive cutting of trees by all departments mostly by Municipality, R&B Deptt., Forest Deptt., and local people. We humans out of greed and desire for more, have been destroying these valuable assets of nature.

We need to take immediate steps to prevent further damage to trees and ensure our future survival. For example, in many cities after road construction is complete the entire road is lined at the side with new seedlings. This prevents detrimental effects on the land such as landfall and erosion. It also ensures clean air by preventing the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, especially with all the cars driving on the new road.

Earlier there used to be a lot of trees in the upper reaches but now the mountains are denuded. The trees along the rivers which worked as a flood defense have disappeared in the past few years and hardly any new trees have come up in their place.

The State Forest Conservation Act of 1997 requires any forest area diverted to other uses to be replaced with twice that area of reforestation on degraded land. But it doesn’t happen because “funds allocated for carrying out required afforestation and strengthening the forest protection mechanism had been spent on the purchase of LEDs, air conditioners, iPods, sofa sets, projectors, vehicles, furniture and fixtures”.

Environmental pollution is one of the key problems faced in our modern world. Though there has been massive technological advancement in these recent days, it has also invited negative effects to the environment. By doing a simple thing like planting a tree, we shall be making the world a better place and for sure we shall always live to be proud of our achievement.

If air pollution is not brought under control tourism to Kashmir will be affected. Kashmir is paying the price of ‘development’ that has seen the number of vehicles rising several folds in the last few years. On one hand it is a sign of growing prosperity, yet, on the other hand, it is making Srinagar and rest of the valley’s air polluted with CO2 and other harmful gases.

The issue of pollution is not just about beauty but has a major impact on the horticulture in the Kashmir valley. Pampore, near Srinagar, is the only place in India that grows saffron. The valley also grows apples, cherries and pears. Walnuts and almonds are two other products that keep the valley’s economy alive despite the loss of tourism. All these crops are in danger if the air pollution continues unabated.

Few years ago, Kashmir faced worst flood. Many attributes this unforeseen event to the wider climate change. It must be accepted that local factors like air pollution must have also played a part in this catastrophe. It is in the interest of Kashmiris to wake up and halt pollution before it is too late.

Tosa Maidan(Budgam) represents a symbolic picture depicting the loot of green gold in Kashmir. Locals blame Forest officials for the mess. They claim, that top forest officials even lower rung employees of the Department are in connivance with Smugglers loot the green gold. 

My request to Government is to provide rural people alternative source to avoid cutting of trees and educate them to plant more trees for their next generation. When new homes or roads are built, rules must be made for mandatory cultivation of trees. One must grow trees in their home or the top of their roofs (in pots). Further, trees must be grown on the roadside once the extension has been done.

We should make everybody plant trees where they work, and everyone’s house must have at least one tree.

Trust me, planting trees is the way to go. Cutting trees will only lead to reduced rainfall and dry conditions.  If someone is caught cutting down the trees, he/she need to pay fine to the police so they can buy small trees as replacements. If someone cuts a second tree, that person needs to pay double the money. 

(The author is an environmentalist and can be contacted at ithakur499@gmail.com)

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