KARACHI: A long struggle by environmentalists and nature conservationists paid dividends on Tuesday when the Sindh government declared Neem (Azadirachta indica), a tree with medicinal properties, as the official tree of the province.
The decision was announced through a notification issued by the Sindh chief secretary. Environmentalists have welcomed the decision and urged the Sindh government to take steps for mass-scale plantation of this tree in the province.
The officials of the Indus for All Programme of the WWF-Pakistan had selected four indigenous trees for this status and submitted their names to different universities, government departments, independent researchers and environmentalists. After long discussions, Neem and Babool trees were selected for the official status.
It was expected that the Sindh government would also select a bird, animal and flower for the official status.
?The country has a national bird, animal and tree, but most of them belong to mountainous ranges, therefore, we decided to start a struggle for giving official status to an indigenous tree, bird, animal and flower, so that the province may also take interest in their conservation,? said regional director of the WWF-Pakistan?s Indus for All Programme, Dr Ghulam Akbar.
Nasir Ali Panhwar of the Indus for All Programme welcomed the decision and said the initiative signifies the provincial government?s commitment towards the conservation of the natural forests of Sindh. In Pakistan, Neem is found in Sindh and some parts of southern Punjab. It is also found in India, Bangladesh and some parts of China and Malaysia.
According to the official data of the Sindh Forest Department, the Neem trees in Umerkot, Hyderabad and Karachi districts are the oldest in the province. During the British rule, Neem was planted at railways stations and the embankments of canals to maintain a healthy environment. amar guriro
Mrs. Elsa Qazi (Late) renowns scholor wife of Allama II Qazi wrote a beautiful poem about Neem Tree here it goes for our readers on the ocasion.
THE NEEM TREE
My lovely Neem,
That intercepts sun?s scorching beam,
Yet bears the heat all day
Without the rain?s refreshing spray,
Thou charm?st the wanderer?s woe away
With soothing shade.
How strong you are, how unafraid,
How green the leaves inspite of all
The mid-day flames that burning fall
Upon thy unprotected head?
Could man be as bold as thou and rise
Above the earth, with the sheltering arm
To save the suffering ones from harm,
From sorrows, poverty and vice
Could man be steadfast, and like thee
Face every fate, would it not be
Fulfilment of life?s lofiest dream
My lovely Neem!
-Mrs. Elsa Kazi
Uses of Neem Tree
In India, the tree is variously known as “Divine Tree,” “Heal All,” “Nature’s Drugstore,” “Village Pharmacy” and “Panacea for all diseases.” Products made from neem have proven medicinal properties, being anthelmintic, antifungal, antidiabetic, antibacterial, antiviral, anti-fertility, and sedative. It is considered a major component in Ayurvedic medicine and is particularly prescribed for skin disease.
All parts of the tree (seeds, leaves, flowers and bark) are used for preparing many different medical preparations. Part of the Neem tree can be used as a spermicide
Neem oil is used for preparing cosmetics (soap, shampoo, balms and creams, for example Margo soap), and is useful for skin care such as acne treatment, and keeping skin elasticity. Neem oil has been found to be an effective mosquito repellent.
Neem derivatives neutralise nearly 500 pests worldwide, including insects, mites, ticks, and nematodes, by affecting their behaviour and physiology. Neem does not normally kill pests right away, rather it repels them and affects their growth. As neem products are cheap and non-toxic to higher animals and most beneficial insects, they are well-suited for pest control in rural areas.
Besides its use in traditional Indian medicine the neem tree is of great importance for its anti-desertification properties and possibly as a good carbon dioxide sink. Practitioners of traditional Indian medicine recommend that patients suffering from chicken pox sleep on Neem leaves.
Neem gum is used as a bulking agent and for the preparation of special purpose food (for diabetics).
Aqueous extracts of Neem leaves have demonstrated significant anti diabetic potential.
Traditionally, slender Neem branches were chewed in order to clean one’s teeth. Neem twigs are still collected and sold in markets for this use, and in India one often sees youngsters in the streets chewing on Neem twigs.
A decoction prepared from neem roots is ingested to relieve fever in traditional Indian medicine.
Neem leaf paste is applied to the skin to treat acne.
Neem blossoms are used in Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu and Karnataka to prepare Ugadi pachhadi. Actually, “bevina hoovina gojju” (a type of curry prepared with neem blossoms) is common in Karnataka throughout the year. Dried blossoms are used when fresh blossoms are not available.
A mixture of neem flowers and bella (jaggery or unrefined brown sugar) is prepared and offered to friends and relatives, symbolic of sweet and bitter events in the upcoming new year.
Extract of Neem leaves is thought to be helpful as malaria prophylaxis despite the fact that no comprehensive clinical studies are yet available. In several cases, private initiatives in Senegal were successful in preventing malaria. However, major NGOs such as USAID are not supposed to use Neem tree extracts unless the medical benefit has been proved with clinical studies.