BUDGAM: The oldest living chinar in the Kashmir Valley, located in Chattergam area of district Budgam and believed to be more than 600 years old, is craving attention as the government has not developed the park it once promised around it nor has it assigned anyone to take care of this majestic tree.
The chinar, locally called buen while its botanical name is Platanus orientalis (or oriental plane), grows in most parts of the Valley and is well known for its cool shade in summers and the spectacular red hue of its leaves in autumn.
The heritage chinar is spread over two kanals of land with a circumference of 31.85 metres and a height of about 14.78 metres. It has been regarded as the oldest surviving chinar in the state by former chief conservator of forests M S Wadoo in his book ‘The Trees of Our Heritage’.
According to Wadoo, the Chattergam chinar has surpassed an earlier chinar tree located at Bijbihara in Anantnag, which was 19.70 metres in circumference and 13.30 metres tall. The book also relates that the tree was planted in 1374 by a revered saint, Syed Qasim Shah (RA), who accompanied Mir Syed Ali Hamdani (RA) from Hamdan, Iran, and whose shrine is next to the tree. The place where the chinar exists, therefore, is a sacred place for the whole area.
Ali Mohammad, a local living near the chinar, told Kashmir Reader that some development was initiated for the chinar in the year 2007 under the government’s park development initiative. The local MLA also provided funds for the development of a park around the heritage chinar, but the work was left mid way.
Talking to Kashmir Reader, Reyaz Ahmad, a local businessman, said that despite many pleas and complaints to the concerned authorities for saving the tree, they seem to be unmoved.
“A chinar takes centuries to grow to its optimal size and, given this fact, this is a vital tree that needs extra care as it is the oldest of its kind. But there is no safeguard for it,” he said.
The carelessness of the government towards the centuries-old chinar tree has put its existence at risk. Locals say that the government has not even appointed a caretaker for the heritage tree. Without a permanent caretaker, children play in its vicinity, thereby sometimes harming it.
Kashmir Reader’s efforts to find out who has the responsibility of taking care of the chinar were mostly unfruitful. Chinar Development Officer Shayak Rasool said, “The chinar tree does not come under us; it is under the Revenue department. We look after those chinars that come under the Department of Floriculture.”
However, Tehsildar Baghati Kanipora Syed Baseer said that he along with the Budgam district development commissioner had visited the heritage tree in October. He assured us that they would look into the matter and ensure the safeguarding of this tree.