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Destruction of ‘kachnar’ trees

June 06, 2012

MANY people in Pakistan, especially those living in sub-mountainous areas, including Islamabad, are familiar with ‘kachnar’ tree known for its purple and white flowers that bloom every year in spring (March-April), adding  beauty to Islamabad and its adjoining areas.

Two species of ‘kachnar’ are named Bauhinia after 16th Century herbalists Jan and Caspar Bauhin who were twin brothers.

Bauhinia variegata and Bauhinia purpurea, are native to Pakistan and grow in abundance in the subtropical mountainous tract.

Islamabad still has ‘kachnar’ trees growing in isolation or in groves soothing all eyes with their charming flowers of purple, mauve, pink or white hues, spreading refreshing fragrance all around.

When the flowers are in bloom it is not unusual to find young boys and girls, mostly gypsy and marginalised, climbing ‘kachnar’ trees and plucking buds which end up in vegetable shops located in posh Islamabad sectors where retail vegetable sellers buy and sell them as spring delicacy.

There is no harm in plucking the buds from trees and using them in local cuisine, but ruthless mode of cutting and collecting these emerging buds, most often by tearing away flowering branches that are often beyond the reach of collectors, damage these plants.

Usually young boys collect buds and sell them without any consideration to the tree growth. A picture along with a report ‘A feast for eye and stomach too’ (April 3), showing two young boys collecting flowers from a ‘kachnar’ tree, pricked my conscience.

Interestingly, just two days earlier, I watched a similar scene near my old house in Satellite Town, Rawalpindi. A teenage boy was ruthlessly thrashing and breaking long flowering branches of the solitary standing ‘kachnar’ tree in full bloom near the corner of a park. In 10 to 15 minutes this ‘kachnar’ tree was badly mutilated and robbed of its flowery branches.

It would take entire year for the tree to heal up the injuries brought to it by the bud collector. Most of the ‘kachnar’ trees planted by the CDA and still growing in some green areas as groves are more or less not in a better shape than the one which I watched in Rawalpindi.

The prevalent tradition in Pakistan to just plant a tree and then forget about aftercare and proper silvicultural management is the real cause of the fast disappearance of tree cover in Pakistan.

The CDA’s horticulture directorate is doing a good job in terms of planting trees in different sectors during tree plantation but remains totally ignorant about the aftercare and proper management of planted trees.

Even pruning or branch cutting of old trees is done with an axe in an unprofessional manner. It is time to make concerted efforts by every citizen to lessen the woes of the leftover trees in Islamabad, in general, and ‘kachnar’ trees, in particular.

A few years ago, I observed robinia (wallayti kiker) trees planted along main city roads in Beijing, China, presenting a panoramic view of the cascading bunches of white flowers from well-pruned and managed trees.

In Pakistan, most town and city authorities managing parks do not have the requisite equipment to manage trees in urban landscapes. It is time all wild or planted trees were treated in a friendly manner so as to make them invaluable for mankind.