By Gopal Sachar
Despite being declared protected, a large number of chinar and walnut trees have vanished from many areas in Kashmir Valley due to their illegal felling and that too with religious bigotry.
There were many old chinar trees in the courtyards and other places of the Kashmiri Pandits and other migrants, which have been felled down in their absence and in certain areas even their houses and other properties were burnt or destroyed by the fundamentalists. Some of these trees were 125 to 150 years old. In addition to this, such elements also destroyed their orchards and removed their walnut trees.
According to reliable estimates, the number of chinar trees in the Valley has come down from 80,000 to about 45,000. Similarly, over five lakh walnut trees and costly plants have been put to vandalism by the religious-maniacs with vengeance and for the greed of earning money from felling down wood of the walnut.
The walnut wood is quite costly and is used for wood carving and also for manufacturing of high quality furniture.
It is alleged that some government officials and politicians are also involved in this destruction. Some of these trees were located quite close to the government buildings.
The chinar trees are generally grown in the Valley of Kashmir and the saying goes that these were brought into Kashmir by certain saints and sufis. While this tree in the Valley is under threat, it is gratifying that in Jammu areas, some people have grown such trees there including some in the Shiva temple complexes.
The walnut tree contributes a lot to the economy of the state and also brings in foreign exchange by exporting the walnut karnel.
An official report puts the number of walnut trees at about 42 lakh in the Valley of Kashmir and 20 lakh in Jammu areas. These trees produce about one lakh metric tones of walnuts.
The earnings on account of walnut production is estimated over Rs 200 crore per annum. The largest production is in the militancy-infested district of Anantnag where the number of walnut trees is stated to be about 30,000.
In Jammu area, the costly trees that has been under onslaught of the greedy politicians and other elements is deodar which provides costly timber. The other plant that is facing great danger is kheir which is used for extraction of katha.
There are many other medicinal and costly plants that have come under wrath because of armed militancy and ill-designed government policies.