Sericulturists face firewood crisis

Burning problem

They need fuel to boil the cocoons which are soaked in hot water to soften the sericin and loosen the silk. After ‘throwing’ or spinning the reeled silk, it is degummed of sericin by boiling the yarn in a soapy solution.

The more sericin boiled off, the better quality the silk as it becomes much softer, lustrous and desirable. Later, the yarn is dried up in moderate heat of amber. They need firewood which doesn’t emit smoke to carry out the processing of silk.

Intense heat

But, there has been acute shortage of tamarind which emits no smoke and yields enough charcoal. Tamarind is an important source of fuel for boiling cocoons as it gives off intense heat.

If they use other firewood, the cocoons would turn grey due to the smoke emitted by them. Besides, the tamarind provides enough amber to dry up the reels.

Over 4,500 silk processing units with three to four ovens each would require over 250 tonnes to 300 to tonnes in Shidlaghatta taluk alone. Nearly 80 kg of silk can be processed using a tonne of tamarind logs.

Now, the tamarind costs between Rs 2,800 and Rs 3,000. A 40-year old tree would provide nearly two tonnes of firewood.

Trees axed

As several of such century-old trees have been axed on the pretext of widening roads. Even the fruit costs Rs 80 per kg as tamarind groves have also gradually declining.

There is no alternative for tamarind firewood though there are state-of-art machines for other processes.

If there is an alternative such as a oven which emits no smoke and provides intense heat to dry up the reels, it would be of great use, say reelers in Shidlaghatta.

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