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March 26, 2018

Flowers start blooming, so has pollen!


March 26, 2018

Islamabad: We can’t recall when was the last time that we had lived such a dry winter in Islamabad? The winter is over without even properly setting in. Hardly any rains we had this winter. Neither did we have a proper opportunity to watch and enjoy the snowfall.

We are in for a very serious water shortage crisis ahead this summer! Whatever! We have an early spring this year. Velvety grass has started covering the dry and parched soil all around. Fresh buds have started sprouting already and soon the dried skeletons of trees will wear their crowns of leaves, swinging and swaying with the breeze with, and the flowers are blooming.

You go for a stroll in any park or visit the lush green Margalla Hills and the air is already filled with fragrance of fresh shrubbery and flowers. The season is so refreshing and rejuvenating. But hold on!

There are thousands of people for whom the spring is the most dreaded season of the year! Those are the people who are suffering with various kinds of pollen allergy. And the worst enemy of these people affected by pollen is the ‘Paper Mulberry’, which sheds tremendous amounts of pollen in the air.

Those, who may be suffering from asthma are the worst hit by the Paper Mulberry pollen during the months of March and April every year.

The fact that the Paper Mulberry is the main culprit behind pollen allergy in Islamabad was first identified and publicly admitted back in 1992 or probably in 1993. There was a public outcry when deaths were reported because of pollen allergy at that time.

There was a strong public demand for removing the Paper Mulberry trees from the city. But so overwhelming was the ‘green cover’ of this particular species of trees in the federal capital that had it been completely removed, the move would have left Islamabad denuded.

Besides, there were two groups; one was demanding elimination of Paper Mulberry while the other strictly against any such move.

And it was, probably, for the first time in the history of the Capital Development Authority (CDA) that the then Chairman, Fariduddin Ahmed, decided to call a ‘public hearing’ over the issue in the CDA Headquarters.

The doctors, botanists, biologists, environmentalists, the patients and the general public took part in that debate. At the end it was decided that the CDA will start phase wise elimination of Paper Mulberry trees from the federal capital.

It was also decided that the Environment Directorate of the Authority would carry out a rehabilitation campaign side by side, planting the suitable selected species of trees to maintain the ‘green character’ of the city.

The Environment Directorate, then headed by the Director-General Rashid Randhawa, launched the initiative to eliminate Paper Mulberry from the green belt between Sector G-5 and G-6 and F-5 and F-6.

As they felled the Paper Mulberry, alongside they launched a large scale tree plantation campaign and most of the trees that we see in the green belts between sectors G-5/G-6, F-5/F-6 right up to 9th Avenue and the green belt between Sector G-10/F-10 and G-11/F-11 were planted during the four plantation seasons between the years 1992-93.

And then suddenly the ‘environmentalists’ threw in the spanner! They approached the court of law and the felling of Paper Mulberry was stopped. For them a few human lives and pain and miseries to a few thousand people once a year is not a big cost to pay to preserve the Paper Mulberry, a specie that has absolutely no industrial or commercial use at all!

That left ‘islands’ of Paper Mulberry, especially in sector H-8, E-10 and E-11. So, now that the spring season is setting in fast, the alarm bells for all those suffering with any kind of pollen allergy have started ringing louder and louder because the amount of pollen, and that too of Paper Mulberry, is increasing and has already crossed way beyond the dangerous levels.

Be careful!

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