NILAMBUR : Buckingham Palace. Kabba building in Mecca. Titanic. Rolls Royce. Do these cult names have a Kerala connection? Don’t write it off as a hare-brained question. Nilambur teak is the common thread between them.
But now, this golden brown teak is facing threat to its existence.
1. Some unscrupulous merchants are selling teaks brought from other parts of the state in the guise of Nilambur teak.
2. The Forest Department is mulling to convert unproductive teak plantations into natural forest. The decades-old replanting work at same place has left a devastating impact on soil fertility, leading to high weed and pest infestations. The move will also ease the burden on the Department - under pressure to manage such plantations.
S Sun, DFO, Nilambur (South), confirmed the existence of such a proposal. However, exact areas have not been measured yet. E V Anoop, head, Department of Wood Science, Kerala Agricultural University, said the 13th Planning Board meeting held a few months ago had debated the issue.
“No one will disagree that Nilambur teak has to be preserved. It is known worldwide for its suitability for ship and yacht building. However, rotational plantation at the same place has considerably damaged the ecosystem,” he said.
Regu Nath, representative of Sawmills Owners Association, underlined the demand for Nilambur teak among customers. “Some unscrupulous timber merchants in Nilambur sell teak brought from other places, particularly from Palakkad, in the guise of Nilambur teak. The Nilambur teak fetches Rs 4600-4800 for B2 quality log and Rs 2800-3100 for B3 quality per cubit feet. The teakwood from other parts of state can be sold at a cheaper price — Rs 1,000-1,500 less than Nilambur teak. But they are sold as Nilambur teak and these merchants reap a huge benefit,” he said.
Shiji Chithrampilli, representative of Nilambur Teak Heritage Society, said fraudsters some times procure non-Nilambur teakwood from two Forest Department depots in Nilambur. “We are pinning our hopes on geographical indication tag. The Society has submitted an application to the GI Registrary of India. We also have the help of IPR Cell of the Kerala Agriculture University,” said T K Abdullahkutty, the Society president.
However, the GI tag alone will not save Nilambur teak, said T K Kunhamu, professor, department of Sylviculture and Agroforestry, KAU. “Issuing wood certificate for Nilambur teak has to be made compulsory. Besides, the government should promote the cultivation of Nilambur teak in private homesteads as it can ensure sufficient flow of the wood to the market”, he said.
Aneesh C P, Timber Sales Division DFO, Palakkad, said the department is selling rosewood along with Nilambur teak through the timber depots in Nilambur. “But there is a proper record for everything as each log is registered and buyers can scan the forest registry to ascertain the genuineness of the wood they bought,” he said.