CHITRAL: The last three decades have seen massive plantation of robinia tree, which is found in North America, both in the lower and upper parts of Chitral, positively impacting the environment and providing the people a cheap source of fuel wood.
Ajaz Ahmed, an environmentalist associated with the forest department, told Dawn that the plant was introduced in Chitral in early 80s, and after its initial success, its large-scale plantation was carried out in the district under a UN project to create income opportunities for the Afghan refugees.
He said saplings were distributed freely among the people.
Mr Ahmed said the plant had fast growth rate and resistance to drought as it could be grown even in barren lands with no irrigation.
He claimed the ever-growing population of the tree had greatly improved the landscape of the area as large tracts of barren lands in all the 36 sub-valleys of Chitral were now covered with robinia plants.
He said the plant grew to 60 feet height in just 8 to 10 years, adding it had proven to be the best alternative to oak wood, which the people used as firewood. He said an oak tree took more than 100 years to mature.
“The tremendous pressure on the oak forest has been reduced during the last couple of decades as the people have started growing this species in their farm and barren lands. The robinia wood is combustible soon after its harvesting, and its plant starts regeneration from roots immediately after being chopped down and again becomes ready for harvesting in three to four years,” Mr Ahmed said.
The blossoming of robinia trees fills the area with aromatic winds, and its long bunchy flowers covering the whole tree offer a pleasant scene to the viewers, he said, adding honey bees were strongly attracted to it.
The environmentalist said every year hundreds of bee-keepers from other districts rushed to Chitral with their beehives during the blossoming of robinia to get its specific flavour which had high demand and price in local and international markets.
“Robinia plantation along the streams and rivers helps prevent soil erosion and improves the hydrological system of the watershed. It also plays a crucial role in the pollination of many important crops and plants in Hindukush region,” he said.
Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2021