Russia poplars bring money - and masks - to KashmirMay 27th, 2011 - 12:29 pm ICT by IANS
Srinagar, May 27 (IANS) The knee-deep white cover on the Jammu-Srinagar highway these days is often mistaken for sleet or cotton, but go closer and it could trigger instant sneezing, a runny nose and throat irritation. For, the fluffy substance is a product of poplar trees and carries allergy-causing pollen.
Standing straight and tall on the slopes of Kashmir, the poplars were once imported from Russia for timber. They are also the cause of seasonal allergic rhinitis, which has become widespread in the valley - something elders here say they never suffered from earlier.
“It is the invisible pollen carried away from male poplar trees that causes the seasonal allergic rhinitis among people here. The Russian species of poplar were brought to the valley in the early 1980s and since then we have been facing the problem,” said a scientist at the local agricultural university here.
Schoolgoing children, roadside vendors and officegoers wearing green masks are a common sight in the valley these days as the month of May is the peak pollen shedding season for the Russian poplar.
“We have a programme to genetically modify the poplar trees to minimize the shedding of pollen, but it will take time. For the time being, the plantation of the Russian species of poplar within residential areas needs to be discouraged,” he said.
“Pollen allergies are caused by pollen grain from poplar trees which have been widely planted in the valley because of their high value soft timber used extensively for making fruit boxes, etc.”
An ENT specialist said, “The pollen grains from the male plants are carried away by wind or insects. When this pollen present in the air lands in a person’s eyes, nose, lungs, skin, etc., some people react to it with an allergy owing to their body’s sensitivity.
“They can cause eye irritation, sneezing, coughing, etc., or more severe symptoms like allergic rhinitis, allergic asthma and even allergic conjunctivitis.”
He also said the allergy is sometimes so strong that it causes temporary loss of smell, severe throat infections and hay fever.
The doctor said the consumption of local honey has proved to be effective in considerably reducing the allergy caused by the pollen grains.
Among the precautions during the pollen shedding period, the doctor suggested, “cleaning bed linen daily, taking a shower and washing the hair before going to bed, keeping the home and car windows closed, using masks during the peak pollen shedding periods and even staying indoors, if possible”.
Discouraging the plantation of Russian poplars in the valley might not be possible as farmers have been growing them on a large scale because of their high value in the market besides the quick maturing quality of the Russian species. These are regarded as cash plantations in Kashmir.
(Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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Tags: agricultural university, allergic asthma, allergic rhinitis, conjunctivitis, eye irritation, fruit boxes, jammu, kashmir, male plants, pollen allergies, pollen grain, pollen grains, poplar trees, residential areas, roadside vendors, runny nose, seasonal allergic rhinitis, shedding season, sleet, throat irritation