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Kaleidoscope

Endangered!

The only tree that we can call our OWN

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Have you heard of Talha? Probably not! And that’s the sad part of the story. It’s the only tree in Kuwait that we can truly call our “own”. Yet, it belongs to the red list of endangered species. That’s not to say that Kuwait is so pathetically lacking in its floral endowments – we have over 370 species of native plants that we can be proud of. But Talha is the only one that can be considered a tree, while the rest are merely plants.

Talha is a kind of acacia, and is a very eco-friendly tree! What? But aren’t all trees eco-friendly? Not really. Just go on a small drive around Kuwait, and you will find plenty of Conocarpus trees that were originally imported from Africa. They are natives of Ethiopia. They are not eco-friendly, especially in the prevailing dry conditions of Kuwait because they are water guzzlers, depleting any water tables that may be there. The botanical estimate is 1 liter per leaf! To get a sense of how mind boggling it is, just work out the math per tree and multiply it with the total number of trees in Kuwait. That’s how much these trees are straining our water resources.

Talha has borne the brunt of years of overgrazing and urban sprawl

That’s not all, the Conocarpus trees are also plundering our soil of all its mineral wealth, turning our lands into dead soil that will take years to get rehabilitated. Conocarpus leaves also cannot be composted for fertilizer as they are dry and take years to disintegrate. They are not eaten by microbes or even earthworms. Sounds like plastic, doesn’t it?

At this point you may be asking, “Then why on earth are we planting these trees in Kuwait?” The answer is simple. Our greed for speed in a world where everything is instantaneous. Conocarpus trees grow amazingly fast and can quickly turn a drab and dry landscape eye-soothingly green. 

On the other hand, Talha requires minimal water to withstand the hottest summer heat in Kuwait. They grow up to five meters in height and can live up to 3 to 5 years or longer. The pollen from the flowers of these trees do not cause allergies like other species that are notorious responsible for seasonal runny noses and bronchial issues in children and adults. This ecological heritage of Kuwait which once (a long time ago) dominated Kuwait’s landscape has since disappeared owing to overgrazing by animals and the sprawl of urbanization. The good news, however, is that organizations like PAAAFR and Kuwait Environment Protection Society have taken it upon themselves to ensure that Talha is conserved. These organizations are also engaged in a project to cover a targeted area of landmass with Talha trees in a given time.

 

Talha once dominated Kuwait’s landscape has since disappeared owing to overgrazing by animals and the sprawl of urbanization