Why rosewood is in the cross hairs

IUCN has listed it in Red List

Updated - June 12, 2021 11:00 pm IST

Published - June 12, 2021 07:28 pm IST - KALPETTA

Its peculiar grain pattern, fancy price owing to low availability, restrictions on felling, and limited distribution have put rosewood ( Dalbergia latifolia ) in the cross hairs of the timber mafia.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has included it in the Red List of Threatened Species in 1998.

“Overexploitation, low germination percentage of seeds in natural conditions, and slow growth rate has led to dwindling population of rosewood in forest areas. It takes long years for the tree to attain a commendable height,” says Kerala Forest Research Institute (KFRI) scientist P. Sujanapal.

According to a KFRI study, high demand, irrational felling, and extraction from its natural environs have turned rosewood into a most threatened species. As per the study, it takes ten years for a rosewood tree to reach a height of six metres and diameter of four to five cm.

“In plantations, crop rotation is estimated at 100-150 years for the production of high-grade timber. It takes 240 years for a tree to attain a diameter of 220-250 cm and a height of 30-35 metres. Due to its slow growth, growing trees for timber is not an attractive option. Hence, the Kerala Restriction on Cutting and Destruction of Valuable Trees Rules, 1974, does not allow cutting of rosewood that has not attained a girth at breast height (GBH) of 2.5 metres,” says N. Badusha, president, Wayanad Prakruthi Samrakshana Samiti, an environment protection group in Wayanad.

“Most of the rosewood trees in forest areas of the district were cut a few decades ago and the remaining patches are found only on private land,” he says.

Though the Forest Department had made an attempt three years ago to fell rosewood trees on colonisation land (land assigned to ex-servicemen seven decades ago in Wayanad) on the request of its owners, it was stopped on the intervention of media and environmental organisations.

The owners had cited the threat posed by the dried up trees to their life and property in the request to the government. Of the 1,094 trees identified for felling, the department axed only about 100.

The department had expected good revenue through auction as a cubic metre of rosewood could fetch about ₹2 to ₹5 lakh in the open market in 2018.

Many teak and a few rosewood trees on the colonisation land were felled between 1995 and 2000. The compensation too was hiked to ₹10,000 a cubic metre in 2005.

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