Spring season is coming to an end. Spring used to be a colourful season in the Potohar region. All kinds of local trees such as kikar, Sheesham, beri, dherek, peepal, and amaltas would blossom and the air would be perfumed with the scent of flowers of these trees. Similarly, local flowers such as motiya, jasmine, lotus and gulab would blossom with their full splendour, beauty, and colour, giving the air a festive look.
All this pageantry of blossoming, fragrance and colour would attract all kinds of flies and insects in droves. Honey bees would flint from flower to flower, to collect nectar, along with hummingbirds, which would delight and dazzle with their shimmering colours and flapping speed.
Since various insects were attracted to flowers; it would consequently attract small birds to prey on them. Thus, there would be a cacophony of birds’ calls throughout the day, especially in the morning and evening. Come summer, these local trees will form thick foliage, providing shade to birds and people alike. Our folk stories and literature are full of fond mentions of kikar, peepal, banyan and jamun trees.
All the aforementioned memories now seem a distant past as the era of promotion of exotic flora -flowers, plants and trees started. Wherever one goes, exotic plants have been planted and promoted which has played havoc with our ecosystem, and resultantly affected local birds and insects.
Our local trees give shade in scorching summer; provide nesting places to birds in spring and are a source of wood in winter. But we have planted foreign trees such as rubber plants, on which our local birds avoid nesting, and cannot seek shelter during summer. The best we see is kites and crows perching on these exotic trees. Similarly, flowers of exotic nature have been introduced which might have colours but are devoid of any fragrance and thus do not attract local insects and flies. Thus, we have rows and rows of these exotic plants and flowers without any associated flowers and fragrances. In consequence, our present generation does not have any idea of dragonflies, butterflies, or fireflies, which used to dazzle us with their beauty, and colours.
To add to the misery, pernicious species of exotic plants have been introduced in past decades which are destroying and supplanting their local competitors.
This spring, I wanted to plant local flora and visited some local nurseries but all they offered were exotic plants and flower varieties; various government representatives were busy buying these exotic varieties for spring plantations in different government departments. To add insult to injury, despite government promises to protect local fauna, none of visiting local or foreign dignitary is offered to plant a local variety!
We see reviews in print and electronic media of gardens maintained by the elite and posh, where the prized possessions are exotic plants. Thus, this patronage of exotic flora by the government and elite and which then pervaded into other striates of society has severely affected our local ecosystem.
Therefore, it is high time to protect our local ecosystem. As a first step, the government should ban the plantation of all exotic flora on its premises with immediate effect. Second, the government should ensure all nurseries (private and government) only promote local flora. Third, only trees, plants, and flowers local to the respective regions be planted. Fourth, housing societies and cantonment boards in various major cities should be instructed to promote local species. Next, pernicious exotic varieties of plants which are supplanting local varieties should be immediately identified and emergency steps be taken for their elimination.