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Kashmir willow replaces shrinking diseased willow plantation in HP

Posted on Dec 08, 07:48PM | UNI

A mysterious forest disease has struck the native willow in Lahaul-Spiti district, shrinking the century-old forest canopy and forcing the administration to urgently replace it with 15,200 fresh saplings the Kashmiri willow.

The district, the biggest in Himachal Pradesh, comprising 42 per cent of the state's geographical area, is also known as a cold desert.

District forest officer Hira Lal Rana told UNI over phone that the old forest of willow locally known as 'Bhiunsa' is decaying rapidly as trees were drying after becoming infected with some mysterious disease.

'Under the desert development plan, the forest department has already transplanted approved variety of 5,200 saplings of Kashmiri willow especially grown by the Dr Y S Parmar Forest University, Nauni at Solan and 10,000 fresh saplings have been supplied by the DRDA (district rural development agency),' Mr Rana said.

'These have been provided to the villagers so that they replace the drying willow stock,' he said.

He said a scientific study conducted by the YSPF university revealed that existing native willow strain had become over mature and required replacement by the exotic root stock. Besides, the depletion of the water table might be another reason for its sudden dryness.

'The Department recommends planting of the new forest saplings before the onset of snowfall or after the snowfall is over in the month of April or May contrary to the rest of state where most of the plantation takes place in the rainy season as the monsoon goes mainly dry in the cold desert,' Mr Rana informed.

Willow was being used as source of fuel and fodder by the tribal people for centuries as it can grow naturally at altitude of 7500 feet to 11000 feet in the district where two native stains of 'bara willow' and 'wild willow' are found. However, most of landscapes and terrain lying barren in the district have only 2 per cent area under forest cover.

Seabuckthorn (Charma) a xerophytes plant and Natural Rosa (herbs) found in the district also serve as soil binders in the soil erosion-prone district.

The department has great advantage as people were sensitive to protect the new plantation and green cover was actively looked after by the local mahila mandal and other self help groups, he added.