Srinagar- Walnut, the organic super food from Kashmir, is in global demand with prices peaking during the harvesting season but the trade is taking toll on the poor climbers who risk their lives as they use traditional methods and ignore advisories on their safety.
At least five climbers in Kashmir have lost their lives and scores injured during walnut harvesting in Kashmir this season and the count is growing with reports from different areas reflecting on deaths due to use of traditional methods.
One among the cases reported this season was of 35-year-old Ali Muhammad Waloo of North Kashmir’s Nowgam village who climbed barefoot on a majestic walnut tree on September 1 and fell down resulting in grievous injuries and died on way to hospital in Sumbal area of Bandipora district.
“He used to climb the trees barefoot for the last three years but never had any injury. But this season was his end,” said Abdul Majeed, his brother-in-law. Ali Muhammad, the lone bread earner, leaves behind his wife and six children.
Majeed revealed that due to substantial amount in the trade, he left carpet weaving job and took walnut harvesting job
Ali Muhammad was not alone who died during harvesting this year but Kashmir Observer has obtained a record of persons in Kashmir who succumbed to injuries while climbing and thrashing walnuts.
They have been identified as Manzoor Ahmad Najar of Bijhama Baramulla (September 19), Abdul Gani Dar of Pinglish Tral (September 15), Mohammad Akbar Sheikh of Gulgam Kupwara (September 11), Mohammad Yousuf Khan from Rafiabad Baramulla (September 5) and Mohammad Ashraf Dar from Hajin Bandipora (August 26) and counting…
Pertinently, the Horticulture Department Kashmir and J&K Disaster Management Department every year issues advisories with do’s and don’ts to avoid casualties during the walnut harvesting season.
An official of the Horticulture department told Kashmir Observer that most of the climbers fail to use safety gear during the harvesting.
“People need to avoid traditional methods of walnut harvesting and use the latest methods of collecting the walnuts that the department shares from time to time,” he said.
As per the advisory issued by the Horticulture Department, the general public shall adopt SOPs and guidelines while harvesting the walnuts and only trained and experienced persons should be involved in harvesting/thrashing of walnuts with safety gears.
“The climber must wear a helmet and tie a safety harness rope while harvesting and use of tall ladders to climb the trees and wearing of non-slippery shoes should be avoided. Also they should use safety nets or thick stacks of hay, around the tree, to prevent injury in case of accidental fall. The harvester must ensure that power transmission lines passing through walnut trees are shut at the time of harvesting/thrashing walnuts,” reads the advisory.
Medical Superintendent Bone and Joint Hospital Dr Mian Suhail told Kashmir Observer that most individuals who fall from the walnut trees suffer from Polytrauma. Polytrauma which means that a patient sustained multiple injuries, some of which may cause significant disability and may be life-threatening.
“They typically sustain injuries to their head, brain, spine, chest, abdomen, and limbs, resulting in long-term paralysis,” he said.
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