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Destruction of ‘kachnar’ trees


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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.


Comments (3) Closed

Shehzad Zafar Jun 06, 2012 08:09am
We are destroying this country by just giving excuse of peoples rights. In this government you can steal any thing from electricity to primeminister ship if you belong to a rural area. If present situation continue like this then this country will be completely destroyed in few years.
Qadeer Ahmed Jun 06, 2012 11:03am
What in this country is on track???
Agha Ata Jun 06, 2012 01:58pm
One of the few things that I miss in the USA, is Kachnar (vegetable) have often mentioned it to my friends. It reminds me of the time when I was growing up in India (before partition and after). My mother cooked it with meat, and it had such an appetizing flavor that the vey thought of it makes me hungry. I tried to find it in Houston. I found it one day; it comes from Mexico—perhaps—but it is neither purple not has any flavor. It also reminds me of an old Punjabi song: Kaccchi kali kachnar di (literally, the raw bud of Kachnar) Pakistanis should feel lucky to have such trees in their country, they should love them and save them.