In Kashmir, authorities scramble to stop seasonal, pollen-induced allergy : The Tribune India

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Ishfaq Tantry
Tribune News Service 
Srinagar, April 9

Government authorities in Kashmir have intensified the drive to cut down female Russian poplars—the primary source of pollen-induced allergy in the region during the spring season.

It is feared that pollen-induced allergy may exacerbate fears about coronavirus since both produce symptoms like a runny nose and sore throat. Authorities across Kashmir have roped in Panchayat members at the village level to percolate the message about cutting down female Russian poplars.

Though pollen allergies in the spring in the region are common, the allergy, induced by the pollen of the poplar varieties imported from Russia, Australia and the US, has turned into a perennial health hazard in Srinagar and other major towns, particularly Baramulla and Kupwara, where thousands of Poplars line up the security garrisons.

The High Court, which is hearing a PIL about measures to prevent the spread coronavirus has also sought an action taken report (ATR) by or before April 10 from the authorities. It has also directed the Secretary Health and Medical Education to get the issue of poplar-induced pollen gallery examined after the bench was told that the pollen allergy may aggravate the respiratory diseases in the region already grappling with coronavirus pandemic.

The pollen/seeds with cotton fluffs released by the imported varieties of poplar trees in the Kashmir Valley remain in the air for 25-30 days and create havoc so far as respiratory diseases are concerned.

As the order about felling down of these trees already stands issued by the High Court in 2015, the concerned deputy Commissioners across Kashmir have issued fresh directions in this regard. Many DCs have given ten days to people to cut down these trees or face action.

In many villages across Kashmir, announcements are being made these days by the Panchayat members urging people to comply with orders to cut down these trees.

“In our village too, an announcement was made yesterday over Mosque loudspeaker urging people to cut down the female Russian poplars within 10 days, warning of action if orders not obeyed,” said Farooq Ahmad Mir, from Fatehpora village in North Kashmir, where the concerned deputy Commissioner Baramulla has given people 10 days to complete the process.

Populus deltoides is the culprit 

Though scores of poplar trees across the Valley have been cut down since 2015, when it first caught the attention of courts, experts identified Populus deltoides, a female variety of the exotic poplar, which produces pollen with a lot of cotton fluff and is responsible for the allergy.

Avoid direct contact

In Kashmir, which is already grappling with rising coronavirus positive cases, health experts describe the pollen-induced allergy as a seasonal health hazard.

They warn the condition may get exacerbated in asthma patients, advising people prone to pollen allergies to wear masks and avoid direct contact with pollen or dust.

Symptoms of pollen-induced allergy

“Pollen allergy is a seasonal health hazard in Kashmir during the spring months. The symptoms range from nasal irritation or burning, watery eyes coupled with redness and skin rashes,” said Dr Jehangir, a Kashmir-based paediatrician and advised wearing masks and glasses to avoid direct contact with the pollen.

These symptoms may further exacerbate and people in Kashmir may mistake it for Coronavirus symptoms if proper medical advice is not sought by the affected persons, health experts warn.



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