Along the banks of Public Works Department canals

Forest Department has earmarked 200 hectares in the district to be brought under teak plantation in 2012, raising the total land covered by the project to 1,600 hectares.

The plantation, being carried out along the banks of various Public Works Department (PWD) canals, were originally meant to control overflow of water at times of floods, according to I.Anwardeen, District Forest Officer, Tiruchi.

Apart from their flood controlling effect, teakwood fetches consistently good returns making them a popular option for the department’s social forestry and general afforestation projects. “Though teakwood matures over a period of 30 years, it requires only three years of care,” said Mr. Anwardeen.

In 2011 alone, teak saplings were planted in nearly 600 hectares along the banks of the Uyyakondan canal, Kattalaimettu canal and Pullampadi canal in the district, according to A.Sekar, Forest Range Officer. “While teak saplings planted in farmland and irrigated for more than three years tend to yield 0.5 to 1 cubic metre of wood, those planted on canal banks yield an average 0.38 cubic metre of wood,” he said. The type of soil at the canal banks also affected the growth and yield: “While the teak planted in Thanjavur, Tiruvarur and Nagapattinam district have a better yield owing to the silt-rich soil on the canal banks there, the teak in Tiruchi has to grow on the hard, gravelly soil found on canal banks here,” he said.

The teak seedlings are raised at a nursery during the first year (raising year), then transplanted onto the cleared land along the canal banks and maintained for the next two years, according to Mr.Anwardeen, who added that the plantation work is carried out by nearly 120 labourers at a cost of Rs.15, 035. Once the teak has matured, the trees are cut and auctioned in lots. “In terms of value, one cubic metre of teakwood, used to make window and door frames, costs Rs.30,000, while the one foot slabs used to make doors and tabletops costs Rs.60,000.”

The department appoints two watchers for every 10 hectares to protect the teak from grazing cattle and humans.

“Teak is one of the four scheduled timbres and unauthorised felling of teak trees is a non-bailable offence that attracts up to five years of imprisonment and a fine up to Rs.20, 000,” said Mr. Anwardeen.