Why Is It In The News?
An investigation by the Kotthamanglam Flying Squad has cleared the doubts about the massive felling of teakwood and rosewood trees in Kerala. Teakwood and rosewood trees worth lakhs were felled and smuggled from Anaviratty and Vellathooval villages in Kerala. The Forest Department confirmed that teakwood in the Kizzhakambalam timber mill belonged to the Adimali range. There are allegations that huge teakwood and rosewood trees were cut and smuggled from the ranges under the garb of an official order by the Revenue Secretary in 2020.
The CCTV footage shows that the trees were transported in a lorry tipper used for construction in Udumbanchola. However, the contractor involved in cutting trees without permission failed to appear before the investigation team of the Forest Department. The contractor had informed the department that he was under home quarantine as he suspected that he had caught the virus.
What Is The Opposition Saying?
The Congress has demanded a judicial probe into the alleged illegal felling and smuggling of the age-old teakwood and rosewood trees from at least eight districts of Kerala. They alleged that trees worth crores had been looted from the government land under cover of a government order. The state has previously faced large-scale felling of premium quality trees from revenue land assigned to farmers and tribals since March 2020. Based on an amendment in the Kerala Forest (Prohibition of Felling of Trees Standing on Land Temporarily or Permanently Assigned) Rules, 1995, landowners were permitted to cut all reserved trees, except sandalwood. However, the government revoked this order in January 2021 following the opposing voices of several environmentalists.
Why Is Rosewood and Teak Important?
Both these types of trees are amongst the finest qualities of timber. In rosewood plantations, crop rotation takes place in hundreds of years. The trees have deep tap and long radial roots. A rosewood tree takes nearly more than 200 hundred years to attain a diameter of 220 to 250 cm and a height of 30 to 35 meters. The International Union of Conservation for Nature (IUCN) has placed it under the Red List of Threatened Species since 1998.
On the other hand, teakwood is one of the most reliable varieties of timber. It is known for its durability and stability. Teak is one of the rare timbers that can withstand desert heat and not catch fire. The natural qualities of the wood makes it resistant to harmful pests, which make it an excellent tool for usage in the kitchen and bathrooms.
How Far Has The Investigation Progresse?
Forest officials have seized several cubic meters of logs of illegally felled trees from various locations. Meanwhile, a plea has been filed at the Kerala High Court, seeking a CBI intervention. The state government told the court that a timber mafia is involved in the felling of the trees.