While the South Zone Forest Departments Council Meeting on Sandalwood here on Wednesday with the participation of the Principal Chief Conservators of Forests and other senior forest department officers from the States of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka pleaded for the enactment of a uniform legislation by the three States to curb smuggling of sandalwood and Red Sanders, the meeting also brought to focus the need for the enactment of an all-India legislation to control the smuggling of the precious forest produce.
One of the concerns emerging from the meeting was that the Centre was yet to enact a legislation despite the fact that a draft legislation was submitted by the State Governments to the Government of India almost 15 years ago. The draft proposals pointed out that the smuggling of sandalwood and Red Sanders has increased by leaps and bounds and has threatened the very existence of the crop, in addition to the social and economic evils it has generated in the country.
While sandalwood was confined to the States of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, even in these States, there was no uniformity regarding the legal status of trees on private lands, extraction, transportation, possession and sale. Sandalwood is in demand both within and outside the country for various products such as sandalwood oil, agarbathies, dust and chips, incense, carvings and other handicraft articles, besides medicine.
Sandalwood trees also grow in private lands and therefore it was felt that any legislation will have to be comprehensive, so as not to put the private growers under any kind of harassment or disincentives to grow and protect the trees in their private lands. There are sandalwood oil distilleries in several States, which do not have sandalwood trees. Therefore, the bulk of the distillation in these distilleries is being done with the help of smuggled sandalwood, since sandalwood purchased in the open auction was too costly to be distilled, and it yielded only four per cent of oil.
Similarly, the main trade in sandalwood within the country is in the hands of private persons who engage themselves in obtaining the smuggled sandalwood in addition to the wood obtained from the government depots. In some States, possession of sandalwood is not an offence, and there are no rigid transit rules as well. In other States, no licence is required from the State Government for the purpose of starting or renewing distilleries. Export of sandalwood is permitted in the form of chips whose average weight is 50 gm and less, and there is no ban on export of other commodities like handicrafts, carvings and sandalwood oil.
Sandalwood as a commodity is very handy for being smuggled in view of its high price and physical manoeuvrability to carry them in various forms. A few kg (pieces) of sandalwood that are carried fetches a very good price.
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Government will soon introduce in the Assembly a Bill to ban sandal oil extraction in the private sector in the State, Minister for Forest Benoy Viswom has said.
Addressing a seminar on `People and Forests,' organised by his department here on Wednesday, the Minister said the State had already obtained the required clearance from the Union Government to go ahead with the legislation. Simultaneously, the Government would set up a sandal oil extraction unit in the public sector to put to use the sandalwood collected by the Forest Department from the reserve forests of Marayur in Idukki district, he said.
Mr. Viswom said the department was working on the formalities connected with declaring the forests surrounding Silent Valley National Park as its buffer zone. This was necessary to ensure the long-time viability of the national park, he said.
"The buffer zone is a firm commitment of our Government," he said. Referring to the ongoing encroachment of revenue land in Munnar and adjoining Mankulam, Mr. Viswom said the best way to check the encroachers was to bring such areas under the ambit of the forest conservation laws.
The Government was seized of the need to declare as `reserve forests' such areas resumed from Kannan Devan Company and vested with the Revenue Department. He said the notification for this would be issued "within a matter of few weeks."
"If we neglect the encroachments in this region any longer, Munnar will be finished. The senseless manner in which development is going on in this area would destroy Munnar's climate. Armed with fake title deeds, encroachers are systematically taking over large tracts of land with exceptional ecological significance around this hill station. Our Government has the political will to stop it," the Minister said.
Inaugurating the seminar, Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan reiterated his Government's commitment to conservation.
Pure Sandalwood Oil , Sandalwood Oil India