CHANNAGIRI : The Forest department is turning to technology to prevent theft of sandalwood trees grown in various forest areas of the state. The department will begin with Mavinakatte Sandalwood Forest in Channagiri taluk of Davangere district. As per the plans, microchips will be inserted in matured sandalwood trees at different spots in a forest. This will enable forest officials to monitor the trees, and help them detect their theft and transportation.Even if a person touches the plant, a message will be transmitted to the forest officer’s cell phone. The chips will be programmed to pick up any illegality in the forest and immediately notify the forest and police officials of the region, Range Forest Officer B N Veeresh Naik told Express.
Upon receiving the notification, police and forest staff will quickly reach the spot and prevent the theft. The microchip technology is already being used by some private sandalwood planters in North Karnataka, where it has proved to be effective. “The plan is still in its initial stage. This is being formulated by the ITC cell of the Forest department located in Bengaluru,” he said.“As sandalwood trees are regenerating naturally in a big way in Mavinakatte Reserve Forest, there is a serious threat to the very existence of these trees. It is not easy to guard every tree. Hence, the plan to insert chips has been initiated by the technical cell of the department. Initially, chips will be inserted in about 300 sandalwood trees,” Veeresh added.
B N Veeresh Naik revealed that the department has a 50-hectare sandalwood plantation in Mavinakatte Reserve Forest. Because of a road passing through the plantation, the trees have become vulnerable to theft.“As sandalwood enjoys a lucrative market in the country as well as abroad, many farmers have been involved with the plantation.
This also has led to an increase in the theft of these trees. One kg of sandalwood fetches `20,000 in the domestic market and `30 to 40,000 depending on demand in international markets,” he said.A sandalwood tree matures in 30 to 35 years with proper watering and fertilisers. “A farmer can plant about 300 plants in an acre of land and from one plant, get about 500 kg of sandalwood, to make it a revenue of Rs 1 crore per tree,” he added.