Kashmir is paying the price of Mufti's disastrous policy on Chinar trees

The orders to axe the Chinars were issued by the District Commissioner of Srinagar to construct a new flyover in the capital city

In a bid to construct a mini-flyover in the summer capital, Srinagar, around one dozen majestic Chinars, that were planted during the 16th-century Mughal rule, have been axed near the Tourist Reception Center (TRC). The chopping of trees, which was formally approved by the government, has deprived Srinagar of the grandeur of Chinars. However, following a public outcry on social media, any further cutting down of the trees has stopped.

But then here’s the question: shouldn’t anyone be held accountable for this “massacre”? After all, one wrong decision has mauled the age-old beauty of this city.  And no matter how much we repent now, it will anyway take centuries to regrow new Chinars to majestic heights.

The orders to axe the Chinars were issued by the District Commissioner (DC) Srinagar Dr Farooq Ahmed Lone. Now when most of the trees have been cut, the official has come up with a second thought.  “I have asked the concerned department and ERA to put any further tree cutting on hold and explore alternatives for construction of the lower limb of the grade separator. Cutting down of Chinars will be the last resort,” he recently told a Srinagar-based daily.

Will somebody ask the DC what is the fun of asking concerned authorities to “explore alternatives” when you have already massacred a majority of the trees. And, can a place like Kashmir, which is mainly known for its natural beauty, bear to lose them in the name of development?

In a place like Kashmir, where such heritage trees are often axed, the “Save-Chinar” campaign is nothing more than a catchy slogan. While civil society is again silent after the further cutting down of Chinars was halted by the DC, such acts will continue to maul the beauty of Kashmir unless concerned authorities evolve a proper mechanism for its conservation. Though Chinar Development Authority exists in Kashmir, incidents like the recent “massacre” mock at its very existence.

Often known as the “speaking tree of Kashmir”, the 25 meters tall Chinar is a tree of all seasons. Come summers and it spreads cool breeze. Come winters and coal of its leaves fuel Kangris or traditional firepot spreading warmth. And it leaves you spellbound by its red, mauve, amber and yellow leaves during autumn.

Chinar equally figures gracefully in Kashmir’s narrative for generations. While veteran leader, late Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah had named his autobiography Aatish-e-Chinar, noted fashion designer Zubair Kirmani is famous for his brand Bounepan, which is actually the Kashmiri name for a maple leaf.

But then, given the rampant cutting down of these trees, Kashmir may soon lose this legacy of centuries. As Muzaffar Razmi said: Lamhon Ne Khata ki Thi Sadiyon Ne Saza Payi!