Indiramma causes spurt in illegal felling of trees

S. Harpal Singh

Nefarious activity: Seized bullock-carts which were used for illegal transportation of teak at the Khanapur timber depot. ADILABAD: The recent spurt in illegal felling of teak trees in Adilabad district is attributed to the demand for this variety of timber created by Indiramma housing scheme. Habitual timber smugglers like the Multanis of Keshavpatnam and other nearby villages in Ichoda mandal are having a field day because of this new demand according to Forest department officials.

Forest officials seem to be at their wits end when it comes to curbing the activity. Between March and May this year teak worth Rs. 40 lakh has been seized in Adilabad Forest Division alone.

One official was even injured in a counter attack by smugglers recently in Ichoda forests.

Revenue officials are also concerned about the rampant use of teak by Indiramma beneficiaries, especially in rural areas.

“Only a few beneficiaries go in for fixing precast door and window frames in their houses as per the guidelines. Everybody seems to be opting for teak frames and shutters. Our experience reveals that the origins of such timber is questionable,” says a Tahsildar not wanting to be quoted.

Each two roomed Indiramma house requires one window and two doors with shutters. These items consume about 4 to 5 cubic feet of teak according to an estimate. The over 2 lakh Indiramma houses, a majority in rural areas, require a considerable quantity of timber.

While legally sold teak lumber costs about Rs. 2,200 for a cubic foot, illegally acquired timber costs about half of this. Instead of investing about Rs. 10,000 the beneficiary needs to invest about Rs. 5,000 to get decent looking doors and windows for his house.

“In order to reduce pressure on forests here, we have started seizing even the bulls besides the carts that are used to transport the illegally felled teak. The intention is to make the smugglers handicapped at least for some time before they recoup,” discloses K. Mahendra Reddy, Adilabad Divisional Forest Officer. “A plan is also afoot to make available some alternative source of livelihood to the Multanis so that they are weaned away from illegal felling of timber,” adds the DFO.