How Long Will The Chinars Live?
Bashir Ahmad Gojree
Man’s place in environment is twofold- physical and the spiritual. The physical relationship entails interaction with all the living things and non-living objects that are a part of the environmental surroundings. The spiritual relationship, on the other hand, requires a set of the rules of conduct to be followed by man. These rules of conduct specify the duties and obligations towards other living species. The guiding principle in, both the cases, is that the environment should not be endangered by our activities.
“Even if there is only one tree full of flowers and fruits in a village that place becomes worthy of worship and respect." - Anonymous
Kashmir's famous Chinar tree (Platanus orientalis Kashmiriana), which has fascinated millions of tourists, over the ages, is an integral part of Kashmir's culture. In Kashmiri it is known as ‘BOUIN’ taken from a Sanskrit word ‘Bhawani’, the Goddess who has been worshipped in Kashmir since times immemorial. You can experience a cool breeze under the shadow of this majestic tree which is very conducive to health.
Chinar-Colony situated along the famous Gulmarg road, some 16 km from Srinagar, is bestowed with a line of lofty Chinar Trees as the colony owes its name to the presence of ample number of Chinars there here. These Chinars have become an essential part of the identity of the inhabitants of this colony.
The place exists in complete harmony with nature, endowed with an impersonal beauty, while the road assumes the shape of a green tunnel in the summers, golden in the autumn and grey in the winters. The cool shade of these Chinar trees, during hot summers, is a relief for anyone. But everything seems to be changing in the Chinar colony now!
A vicious circle of changes was initiated with the Narabal Tangmarg Road (NTR) widening which challenged the existence of these mighty chinars along the road. The NTR widening may be serving good purpose, but it was detrimental and severely damaging when it came to the majestic and magnificent Chinar trees standing along the road.
Though the government initiated the road widening programme and the administration cooperated, the conservation of such an important and critical tree heritage was ignored altogether. One is bewildered to see the fate of such a splendid heritage which was being crushed under the bulldozers and no one, neither the people, the activists, the media, and nor the administration heard the painful murmur. A horrific end to a heritage we should have been proud in preserving!
Besides adding to the pristine glory to the famous Gulmarg road, the peel-off, small twigs and the golden dry leaves of these Chinar trees are used by the locals to prepare domestic coal, used in the winters. Some birds like crows, eagle, owl, mynah etc., make their abode in these trees. These trees provide shelter to thousands of birds. It used to be a heavenly feeling to listen to the singing of these birds every morning and evening. But, Alas! It is a thing of past now.
NTR widening came as fatal blow to these Chinar trees and as the road was being macadamized along the parallel sides of these trees, they began to die. No doubt, the state government has imposed a ban on cutting the chinar and its lopping, and felling of a Chinar tree, where necessary, is permitted only against planting of five new trees of the same specie. But no steps were taken to save scores of trees from dying of road widening along the Narabal Tangmarg road. No new trees were planted. I believe that the Chinar trees in other parts of the valley are facing the same fate.
The tragedy is that we have ‘Chinar Development Authority’ which is in deep slumber and seem concerned only with the census of Chinar trees. They just release status report of the ever declining number of Chinar trees and do nothing to preserve or increase the numbers.
A good example for the authorities would be that of the seventh century King, Viram Deo, of Merta who, observing the tendencies of his subjects and their affection for Mango trees, ordered the preservation of mango trees in Jodhpur. It was a great source of success for the king and a mark of high respect and sense of belonging for the people. But alas! the present day representative in Kashmir do exactly the opposite.