Bradford Bohras Tackle Invasive Species on World Environment Day

On World Environment Day, volunteers from the Dawoodi Bohra Community of Bradford dedicated their time and effort to a vital environmental initiative by the River Aire in Baildon.  In a process known as “balsam bashing,” the volunteers worked tirelessly to remove invasive non-native Himalayan balsam plants from the riverbank, aiming to protect and restore the native ecosystem.

Himalayan balsam, introduced to the UK in 1839 by Victorian botanists, originates from the foothills of the Himalayas, including northern India, Pakistan, and Nepal.  Initially prized for its attractive pink flowers, it quickly spread beyond private collections, colonizing riverbanks and wetlands.  Without natural biological controls found in its native habitat, Himalayan balsam has become a significant concern for conservationists across the UK, especially in the last 50 years.

This invasive species can dominate habitats, blocking out light and restricting the growth of native flora. Its blossoms attract pollinators away from other plants, reducing species diversity and affecting local ecosystems and food webs.  Furthermore, its shallow root system increases the risk of soil erosion and siltation of watercourses once the plants die back.  Clearing these dense stands is essential for maintaining access to paths and waterways, which otherwise would cost considerable time and money.

“Our community is deeply committed to protecting and enhancing the natural environment,” said Najmuddin Master, a representative of the Bradford Bohras.  “Through initiatives like balsam bashing, we aim to make a tangible difference in preserving the biodiversity of our local habitats and inspiring others to join us in these important efforts.”

Every summer, from May to early August, conservationists across the UK engage in balsam bashing, ideally before the seed pods appear.  This year, the Dawoodi Bohras of Bradford joined the effort along the River Aire.  Their commitment is part of Project Rise, a global initiative aimed at supporting vulnerable members of society and enhancing the natural environment.

The Bradford Bohras are no strangers to environmental conservation.  They regularly undertake clean-ups of parks and rivers, demonstrating a long-standing commitment to the wellbeing of their local environment.  In June 2023, Project Rise volunteers from the Dawoodi Bohra community of Bradford partnered with the Aire Rivers Trust for a clean-up in Kirkstall, Leeds.  This initiative, part of the #OurCleanRiver campaign, saw volunteers working together to tidy and clear paths along the River Aire, highlighting the continuous effort to improve local rivers for both wildlife and people.

“We really enjoyed meeting and working with you all,” said a representative from the Aire Rivers Trust.  “Thanks to you all for the hard work and enthusiasm.  I hope folk recover from the nettle stings soon!  I look forward to coming to talk to you about Aire Rivers Trust and our other projects.”

By participating in activities like balsam bashing, the Dawoodi Bohras of Bradford not only contribute to the preservation of their local ecosystems but also foster a sense of community and shared responsibility for the environment.  Their efforts on World Environment Day serve as a reminder of the impact collective action can have in protecting our planet for future generations.

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