Russian Poplars and Covid-19

HC Seeks Compliance Of Its Orders ‘Positively’ Before June 16

Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir High Court has directed government to “positively” submit decision taken on the report by an expert committee on aspects relating to the Russian Poplar trees including the impact of the pollen and fluff from these trees on the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“A short adjournment is sought by Amit Gupta, AAG, to file a report in terms of our previous orders in this issue. The same shall be positively filed before this Court before the next date of hearing,” said a division bench of Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Rajnesh Oswal according to Global News Service correspondent and posted the matter for further consideration on June 16.

Last month, Additional Advocate General Amit Gupta had informed the court that the General Administration Department has taken a view on the report submitted by the Expert Committee and the same stands forwarded to the Department of Law and the Forest Department for compliance.

“Neither report of expert committee nor the decision taken thereon has been placed before us,” the court had said previously and sought the same.

Headed by Dr. Mohit Gera (IFS), Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and HoFF, the members of panel included Farooq Ahmad Gillani (Chief Conservator of Forests, Kashmir), Dr. Mushtaq Siddiqi (Vice-Chancellor, Islamic University of Science & Technology), Dr. Naveed Nazir Shah (HoD, Pulmonary Medicine, Government Medical College, Srinagar), Zubair Ahmad Shah (Conservator of Forests, Srinagar), Dr. Tariq. H. Masoodi (Dean, Department of Forestry, SKUAST, Kashmir) and Mehraj-ud-din Malik (Regional Director, Social Forestry, Kashmir).

The panel was formed following the Court’s order on April 10 last, directing the Chief Secretary to constitute it to examine the impact of the pollen and fluff from the poplar trees and the desirability of felling poplar trees amid coronavirus pandemic.

The court had passed the orders days after almost all deputy commissioners in Kashmir ordered axing of the “female” poplar trees.

“Significantly a grave error is pointed out which is to the effect that female poplar trees have been directed by the authorities to be felled on account of the “pollen” generated by them. This by itself is a basic mistake,” the court had observed.

“Pollen is generated by the male of the specie and not by the female tree. Therefore felling of the female of the Species would not have any impact,” the court had said as per GNS.

It was also pointed out, the court observed, that the fluff carries the seed and not pollen.

“The two reports brought to our notice refer to views of several experts doubting the correctness of the statement that the fluff generated by the poplars could be effecting respiratory diseases or would impact spread of the COVID-19 infection,” the court had observed, adding, “The Committee which is constituted would examine all aspects relating to the matter including the impact of the pollen and fluff from the poplar trees, the desirability of felling poplar trees (also called Russian Poplar) and related issues.

The Committee, the court had said, shall suggest all necessary steps, including felling of trees, if necessary.

The Secretaries, Health and Forest Departments, were directed by the court to take a “considered view” on the committee’s report and place the same before the Chief Secretary for consideration at the earliest. “The final recommendations shall be placed before us at the earliest (now before June 16),” the court added. (GNS)