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‘Smuggling has hit sandalwood production in the country’

Staff Reporter

Special security to protect trees from poachers in State


‘Unified law must to address the issue’

Steps include chain linking, fencing


Bangalore: Sandalwood production in the country — to which Karnataka and Tamil Nadu contribute 90 per cent — has fallen to less than a fourth of the amount produced 50 years ago, said A.K. Verma, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, speaking at a seminar on sandalwood, organised by the Institute of Wood Science and Technology, here on Wednesday.

“From 4,000 tonnes produced annually in the 1960s, the figure fell to 2,000 tonnes in the 1990s, and to just 1,000 tonnes now — which is half the national demand,” he said.

Attributing this to smuggling, Mr. Verma said that a “unified law” is needed to address the issue which goes beyond State boundaries. The price of sandalwood ranges between Rs. 3,000 and Rs. 4,000 a kg.

“India has been overtaken by Australia and Indonesia in the production and export of sandalwood, and we cannot afford to have this happen,” he added.

Security

The Forest Department will take special steps to protect sandalwood trees from poachers in three areas in the State, Hoskote, Bhadravati and Shikaripur, which have a large number of old, “high girth-class” sandalwood trees that are susceptible to poaching, Mr. Verma said.

“These measures will include chain linking, fencing, gate locks and strengthening of staff,” he said. The initiative will cover an area of 1,000 hectares in these three regions, and work will begin in the next fiscal. “Inventories are being prepared to assess the number of large sandalwood trees, after which a detailed project proposal will be made,” he said.

Planting

The Forest Department has sought a grant of Rs. 3 crore from the Union Government for planting sandalwood trees in 1,000 hectares in Shimoga, Hassan, Uttara Kannada and Chikmagalur districts, areas that correspond to the presence of artisans, Mr. Verma said. As much as 22,000 kg of seeds have been collected, and 300 personnel will be recruited for the planting operations next monsoon. Special stainless-steel “dibblers” have been designed by the Forest Department for the purpose.

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