As willow yield falls, Kashmir bat makers urge govt to start mass plantation : The Tribune India

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As willow yield falls, Kashmir bat makers urge govt to start mass plantation

As willow yield falls, Kashmir bat makers urge govt to start mass plantation

Logs of willow in Srinagar. Tribune photo



Naseer Ganai

Srinagar, February 11

With decline in willow production and a significant outflow of willow from the Kashmir Valley, bat manufacturers in Kashmir today wrote an SOS to the government and called it to launch mass willow plantation projects on government-owned land to rescue the industry.

“If a mass plantation initiative like Canada’s sustainable plantation practices or Pakistan’s one billion tree tsunami is launched in Kashmir, J&K could achieve self-sufficiency in raw material reserves,” said the Cricket Bat Manufacturers of Kashmir in a statement here.

The industry, which employs around 1,50,000 workers, with 70 per cent from Uttar Pradesh and Punjab and the remaining 30 per cent from Kashmir, generates over Rs 300 crore in revenue.

However, the industry faces a threat of extinction due to dwindling supplies. The bat manufacturers fear closure as raw material shortages worsen. “Last year, we had 30 per cent deficit in raw material supplies and this year, we have 70 per cent deficit. It is because the rate at which we require the willow tree is much lesser than the rate at which those are cut,” the statement said.

The introduction of willow (Salix alba var. caerulea) for bat-making in Kashmir dates back to the 19th century. It was initiated by British officials Sir Walter R Lawrence, the Settlement Commissioner, and JC Mac Donell, the inaugural Chief Forest Conservator. Their recommendation led to importing this specific willow species to Kashmir from England.

Following Partition, bat manufacturers relocated to Meerut and Jalandhar from Sialkot, which was the main hub of cricket bat manufacturing in British India. But Meerut and Jalandhar continued to rely on Kashmir for their willow raw material.

Over the years, Kashmiri craftsmen began exporting finished products to Meerut and Jalandhar. Now, Kashmir willow bat industry stands as Asia’s largest, having 147 small and large-scale manufacturing units.

In international cricket, the cost-effectiveness of Kashmiri willow makes it a desirable alternative to English willow bats, and as a result, it is gaining popularity. What is now marring the industry is the lack of willow.

The bat manufacturers said the plywood industry and pencil factories are utilising willow trees, which they advocate banning. They say there is the need to halt the export of willow from Kashmir, which averages around 60 trucks per month.

They also said large-scale willow plantation efforts on government land have been absent for the past 30 years.

They say India wants to be carbon-neutral by 2070. “The sustainable willow plantation drive in Kashmir will support the programme and will safeguard the livelihood of more than 1,50,000 people in Kashmir.”

Planting willow trees in Kashmir’s wetlands could generate annual revenues exceeding Rs 350 crore, they added.

However, the said law, Willow Prohibition on Export and Movement Act, 2000, is intact and it is safeguarding the industry. The law was enacted by the National Conference government and it was among the laws that were adopted after the abrogation of Article 370.

#Kashmir #Srinagar


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