High Court orders stay on felling Russian poplar trees

Asks government to set up expert panel within 4 days

High Court orders stay on felling Russian poplar trees

Srinagar: The J&K High Court ordered stay on government order for cutting down female Russian poplar trees and directed J&K Chief Secretary to constitute a panel for examining the matter within four days from now.

The government on April 3 had ordered axing the poplar trees as it generates pollen believed to cause respiratory allergy. But many experts oppose it citing no such credible study is available on it.

On Saturday, the court directed the Chief Secretary to constitute a panel headed by the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and other experts on trees, medicine, respiratory diseases and other subjects relevant to the issue.

It directed that the committee be constituted within four days from the court order so as to 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 shall suggest all necessary steps, including felling of trees, if necessary. The committee shall complete its deliberations expeditiously within a time frame to be fixed allotted by the Chief Secretary. Its report shall be forwarded to the Secretaries of the Departments of Health and Medical Education as well as Forests,” the court said.

The court directed that the Secretaries, Health and Forest Departments shall thereafter take a considered view on the report of the Committee and place the same before the Chief Secretary for consideration at the earliest.

“The final recommendations shall be placed before us at the earliest,” the court said

Advocate Shafqat Nazir cited previous court orders of 2015 on felling of poplar trees.

“If this is the position, we today direct that any prior order directing felling of the poplar trees would be kept in abeyance till the above proceedings of the committee and consideration directed today are completed, placed before us and further orders passed by us,” the court said.

It was recorded after Advocate Habeel Iqbal through e-mail mentioned that the indiscriminate felling of the trees (reported to be in several thousands) will have severe adverse economic and ecological impact, which may be irreversible. He gave reference to media reports as well.

The court while going through it recorded that a grave error is pointed out and female poplar trees have been directed by the authorities to be felled on account of the “pollen” generated by them. This in itself is a basic mistake, it said.

“Pollen is generated by the male of the species and not by the female tree. Therefore felling of the female species would not have any impact,” the court said.

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

The court said, “In view thereof, it is necessary that the very basis of the issue and desirability of felling of female poplar trees needs to be revisited before these trees are felled. It also cannot be denied that there is grave urgency in the matter.”

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