The Jammu and Kashmir administration has given a 10-day deadline to cut all the female poplar trees at government as well as private land within 500 meters of habitation. The deadline was issued on the directions of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court. Lawyer Shafqat Nazir had filed a PIL seeking court's direction to the authorities to cut the female poplar trees near habitation citing fears that the pollen generated by the trees during the spring season could become carriers of the coronavirus. 

Kashmir female poplar trees

"Pollen of poplar trees remain in the air for between 25 to 30 days and create havoc for humans with respiratory diseases. It has the potential to hold the COVID-19 virus and result in aggravation of the spread of the infection as well," the lawyer said in his PIL.

Deputy commissioners in Kashmir have asked the locals to cut the poplar trees on their land and warned them of legal action against those who don't comply with the orders. According to the orders, an FIR will be filed against those who fail to comply with the orders and authorities will then cut the trees and auction on their own.

Kashmir is home to more than 15 million such poplar trees and environmentalists have warned of adverse effects if they are cut. According to a study, 26 of the 46 species of poplar trees cause allergies.

The move raises ecological and economic concerns

Another reason to cut the trees is that female poplar's pollen induces a variety of allergic symptoms, including asthma, red eyes and fever. Breathing difficulties and fever are two main symptoms of coronavirus and authorities fear this could trigger a rush to hospitals amid the coronavirus pandemic.

However, some people have questioned the decision and asked if such indiscriminate felling is even scientific since a lot of rumours surround the spread of coronavirus. There will be economic consequences as well as several plywood factories in Kashmir depend on the wood from poplar trees.