TN smugglers make hay in State forests

TN smugglers make hay in State forests

The stump of a felled Sujjilu tree.

Smugglers from Tamil Nadu are busy looting the natural resources in Karnataka’s forests, and the department mandated to protecting the green treasure appears to be in a slumber.

The Cauvery Reserve Forest in Kollegal taluk, Chamarajnagar, has become a safe haven for the smugglers from the neighbouring State to steal the forest wealth.

‘Sujjilu’ trees are a case in point. A walk across the reserve forest would reveal over 400 Sujjilu trees denuded. Sujjilu (Albizia Amara), has multiple uses. Its leaves are powdered and used as an alternative to soapnut; ‘saponin’, its chemical component acts as a detergent to remove oil and dirt; it yields a natural dye used by the textile industry; its sweet sticky resin is used to prepare condiments; and its branches are perennial source of fuel in brick kilns.

Such precious trees have been cut, leaving only their stems as residues across the reserve forest, which has spread along the Cauvery River from Adipala Hills in Karnataka to Karakadu and Govindapadi in Tamil Nadu.

The demand for ‘sujjilu’ is high for the cottage industries in Karakadu and Govindapadi. Besides, the number of brick kilns are also high in these regions of Tamil Nadu.

Cashing in on the demand in the local market and the Karnataka Forest Department’s benign neglect, a gang of 15 to 20 men from Tamil Nadu cross the Cauvery, climb the Adipala Hills and denude the sujjilu trees. They smuggle the leaves, logs and bark of the trees on coracles to Tamil Nadu. They are not only looting the State’s resources, but also disturbing the wildlife.

“Adipala Hills is a favourite habitat of wild elephants as they get sumptuous fodder and water. But the looters have disturbed their life too,” says Ramapura Gram Panchayat member Mutturajamma.

Monsoon is the best season for the looters as the Karnataka forest staff are lax in guarding the reserve forest area during the rainy season. The wealth flows unabated to the TN as the forest staff are in deep slumber.

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