THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Ever since the establishment of the first teak plantation by the British in Nilambur in 1842, the teak trees have had a prominent presence on the forest cover of the state. Now more than a century and a half later, the state government is mulling replacing the teak plantations with natural forests.
The decision comes in the wake of repeated grievance from environmentalists that the practice of monoculture plantations adversely affected forest biodiversity and negatively impacts the wildlife.
“It has been found that in those forests that had teak plantations, there is a significant absence of natural forest cover. It is in this context that a decision has been taken to replace the teak plantations. But it will be subjected to the permission from the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change,” said K Raju, Forests Minister.
According to the minister, a committee has been appointed to study the impact of teak trees, the financial gains it might bring to the state, the need to set up natural forests and the advantage it will bring to the biodiversity.
It is learnt that the committee that will be headed by Palakkad Chief Forest Conservator (Wildlife) Anjan Kumar will have four other members including experts from Kerala Forest Research Institute and Department of Wildlife Science, Forest College.
“The presence of teak plantations in forests and wildlife sanctuaries is not doing any good. These plantations prevent undergrowths resulting in food shortage for animals and also water scarcity. Also, due to stringent provisions in the wildlife acts and subsequent court orders, the state couldn’t claim the huge revenue that the teak trees could bring to it,” said an officer with the Forest Department.
The officer further added: “It is estimated that the state currently has 75,000-hectare of teak plantations. The teak trees in these plantations were of third or fourth rotation ones and are mainly unproductive ones. The pest attack also makes it non-lucrative.”
Meanwhile, TV Sajeev, principal scientist, Department of Forest Entomology, KFRI, told Express the state’s plan to replace teak plantations with natural forests might be a reflection of the global paradigm shift on the role of forests. “Initially forests were considered to be a source for timber production. Then comes the concept of conservation forestry. The latest is considering forests as a large system of ecosystem services. The change in thought might help to enhance the green cover of the state,” said Sajeev.