While felling of silver oak trees in Yercaud is increasing, officials claim it is like harvesting crops and new plants are being planted for trees felled.
Silver oak trees are known for improving air quality by storing carbon dioxide and exhaling oxygen through the process of photosynthesis. The leaves of the silver oak tree absorb airborne pollutants.
So, in Yercaud, tribal people used to plant a lot of oak trees and use their branches as firewood. The trees are used for manufacturing furniture items. But in recent days, during the early hours dozens of lorries carrying felled trees are leaving Yercaud.
The loaded lorries are parked in line near the forest check-posts and, after permission they move to various places.
R. Deva of Yercaud said around 50 lorries loaded with silver oak trees are going to various districts from Yercaud each day. To avoid people from seeing the vehicles, they are loaded at midnight and transported in the early hours. Bribe allegedly plays a major role in this issue and officials from revenue, police, forest and transport departments were involved in this. Mr. Deva alleged that for a single lorry, ₹25,000 was given as bribe.
To cut down trees, one has to get permission from the district administration through the revenue and forest departments. “After getting permission for one load, they take photo copies of the order and cut more trees,” S. Loganathan, another resident of Yercaud, said.
Forest officials said that silver oak trees are planted as intercrops to grow pepper and used as shade trees in tea or coffee estates. At an appropriate time, the owners cut down the trees after taking permission. They plant new saplings for those cut down. But the public think that these trees are cut down from forests. Only trees in estates are allowed to be cut down after proper inspection. Forest officials added that not a single tree is cut down from forests.
Salem Collector S. Karmegam said strict action would be taken, if trees in forests are cut down. “I have instructed the concerned department to monitor it strictly,” he added.