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Teak forests of West Kamrup division under threat

By Kishore talukdar

MIRZA, Oct 8 � The valuable teak forests of Kamrup West Forest Division have come under tremendous biotic pressure following growing onslaught on the premier timber species. Conservation and protection mechanisms put up in the reserve forest area have failed to yield result to the desired level. The forests full of sal (Shorea robusta) and teak (Tectona grandis) are bearing the brunt of inadequate protective cover.

Those saddled with manning the RF areas are hit hard by problems galore. These vulnerable forests require motivated and well-equipped young ground staff who can handle any situation. Also dedicated leadership at the helm holds the key as far as success of protection and conservation measures are concerned.

Acclaimed for its teak forests, the Kulshi forest has been hit hard by deforestation. The three RFs- Barduar, Pantan and Kulshi preferred by the smuggling syndicates have to bear the brunt of inadequate official protection. More the demand, more the pressure on the teak forests in the absence of a well-planned protective strategy.

Rise of teak prices since the past 30 years has been unprecedented. It is reported that per cubic metre price of this particular timber species has increased to Rs 18,396 from Rs 1,768 between 1972 to 1998.

A teak tree requires 30 to 40 years to yield 1.06 cu.m of timber. Teak is extensively used for door, window and luxurious furniture making. Named as Tectona grandis by Swedish botanist C Linnaeus way back in 1781, the literal meaning of this species is �carpenter�s pride� as the spectacular quality ingrained in teak is extolled by the carpenters.

Kulshi forest was given reserve forest status in 1873 just after commercial teak plantation began in the preceding year. Initially, an area measuring 8 acres of land in the lower slopes of the Kulshi hills was selected and later on extended in the following years.

Of all the plantations made in the Kulshi hills, the plantation of two consecutive years - 1874, 1875 have been designated as monumental. The 1872 pioneering plantation was however cleared and the site was replanted in 1958.

Once the habitat of the tiger, the then thick Kulshi forest has suffered. Held spell bound by its scenic beauty, the then Conservator of Forests of undivided Assam, John Rowntree in his book wrote of the beauty of Kulshi as second to none in Assam. Most importantly, the presence of Gharial (Ghavialis gangeticus) in the kulshi tributary was mentioned in his book.

But deforestation has robbed Kulshi of its pristine beauty. Also, with revenue collection taking precedence over protection and conservation, the landscape with its rich wildlife diversity has suffered setbacks.

An octogenarian while collecting some edible plants informed this correspondent about the rich plant diversity of Kulshi forest. A witness to degradation of forest cover, the old man was emphatic on adopting steps to salvage the remaining resources.

Felling of trees should be prevented at all costs and given the rising trend of forest product requirement due to the construction boom, a substitute for timber is imperative to reduce the strain on natural forests.

One of the key forest areas of Kamrup West Forest division, the Kulshi forest have been ignored by the authorities, but measures undertaken do not match the richness of the forest area.

Further, local people�s participation which was institutionalised in June 1990 with the formation of joint forest management programme is yet to produce satisfactory results. Minimum understanding of the necessity of forests for the survival of all life forms, is still lacking among the public.

The impoverished state of the ecologically illiterate people living in the forests is a blessing for illegal syndicates to thrive. Economically sound, ecologically conscious forest dwellers including honest dedicated forest officials are a must to rid the forests of the ills afflicting them.

Taking a serious note of growing pressure on this timber species, need to take sufficient conservation initiatives is a matter of paramount importance. And for posterity�s sake, the Kulshi forests need to be saved.

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Teak forests of West Kamrup division under threat

MIRZA, Oct 8 � The valuable teak forests of Kamrup West Forest Division have come under tremendous biotic pressure following growing onslaught on the premier timber species. Conservation and protection mechanisms put up in the reserve forest area have failed to yield result to the desired level. The forests full of sal (Shorea robusta) and teak (Tectona grandis) are bearing the brunt of inadequate protective cover.

Those saddled with manning the RF areas are hit hard by problems galore. These vulnerable forests require motivated and well-equipped young ground staff who can handle any situation. Also dedicated leadership at the helm holds the key as far as success of protection and conservation measures are concerned.

Acclaimed for its teak forests, the Kulshi forest has been hit hard by deforestation. The three RFs- Barduar, Pantan and Kulshi preferred by the smuggling syndicates have to bear the brunt of inadequate official protection. More the demand, more the pressure on the teak forests in the absence of a well-planned protective strategy.

Rise of teak prices since the past 30 years has been unprecedented. It is reported that per cubic metre price of this particular timber species has increased to Rs 18,396 from Rs 1,768 between 1972 to 1998.

A teak tree requires 30 to 40 years to yield 1.06 cu.m of timber. Teak is extensively used for door, window and luxurious furniture making. Named as Tectona grandis by Swedish botanist C Linnaeus way back in 1781, the literal meaning of this species is �carpenter�s pride� as the spectacular quality ingrained in teak is extolled by the carpenters.

Kulshi forest was given reserve forest status in 1873 just after commercial teak plantation began in the preceding year. Initially, an area measuring 8 acres of land in the lower slopes of the Kulshi hills was selected and later on extended in the following years.

Of all the plantations made in the Kulshi hills, the plantation of two consecutive years - 1874, 1875 have been designated as monumental. The 1872 pioneering plantation was however cleared and the site was replanted in 1958.

Once the habitat of the tiger, the then thick Kulshi forest has suffered. Held spell bound by its scenic beauty, the then Conservator of Forests of undivided Assam, John Rowntree in his book wrote of the beauty of Kulshi as second to none in Assam. Most importantly, the presence of Gharial (Ghavialis gangeticus) in the kulshi tributary was mentioned in his book.

But deforestation has robbed Kulshi of its pristine beauty. Also, with revenue collection taking precedence over protection and conservation, the landscape with its rich wildlife diversity has suffered setbacks.

An octogenarian while collecting some edible plants informed this correspondent about the rich plant diversity of Kulshi forest. A witness to degradation of forest cover, the old man was emphatic on adopting steps to salvage the remaining resources.

Felling of trees should be prevented at all costs and given the rising trend of forest product requirement due to the construction boom, a substitute for timber is imperative to reduce the strain on natural forests.

One of the key forest areas of Kamrup West Forest division, the Kulshi forest have been ignored by the authorities, but measures undertaken do not match the richness of the forest area.

Further, local people�s participation which was institutionalised in June 1990 with the formation of joint forest management programme is yet to produce satisfactory results. Minimum understanding of the necessity of forests for the survival of all life forms, is still lacking among the public.

The impoverished state of the ecologically illiterate people living in the forests is a blessing for illegal syndicates to thrive. Economically sound, ecologically conscious forest dwellers including honest dedicated forest officials are a must to rid the forests of the ills afflicting them.

Taking a serious note of growing pressure on this timber species, need to take sufficient conservation initiatives is a matter of paramount importance. And for posterity�s sake, the Kulshi forests need to be saved.