Minor forest produce vanishing

For people living near forest areas, the forest is their main source of income. They depend on minor forest produce for their livelihood. By gathering forest produce, they could generate some income by selling them in the local market.

Minor forest produce, including shikakai (soapnut-acacia consinna), nellikai (phillanthus emblica), dalchinni (cinnamon), leaves and buds, murugal (cocum, garcinia indica), uppage (garcinia gummigutta), alalekai (terminalia chebula), antavalakai, (sapindus laurifolious) honey and many spices and edible fruits, which were found in plenty in the Western Ghats region of Uttara Kannada and Belgaum districts not long ago, are disappearing now.

Only ten years ago, truck loads of minor forest produce were collected from the forests of Joida, Ramnagar, Londa, Jagalpet, Sirsi, Siddapur, Yellapur, Khanapur and Belgaum’s forests. But it is difficult to collect even a small load now, according to Hanji Khanapur and Basavraj Shettar of Sirsi, who are engaged in minor forest produce trade.

Later, the system of issuing permits and licences was put into place. Some contractors collected forest produce in an unscientific way. Many of the trees have been damaged during the collection of forest produce.

Terminallia chebula, locally called harda (in Marathi) has dropped. Soap nut plants take two decades to regenerate and today, there are very few trees that produce good yield.

However, some aamla or nellikai trees have been producing good yield. Today, the Forest Department has completely stopped auctioning of the produce. Instead, it is engaged in regeneration of trees by developing nurseries for them.

The scientists of the Forestry College in Sirsi have been researching the issue of protection and regeneration of these tree species.

Dammer trees, commonly called dhup trees, which were in abundance in Siddapur, Sirsi, Yellapur and Joida taluks in Uttara Kannada district, are on the verge of extinction, according to Cubroid, a local NGO working for wildlife conservation.

The resin extracted from these trees is used as incense and air purifier. Unscientific extraction of resin from the trees, predation of fruits and seeds and very low germination success have led to the depletion of these rare species of trees, say botanists.

According to Hambir Derekar, a forest dweller from Joida, there were eight dhup trees in Deria forest region a few years ago. They were the source of minor income for a few families living in the area but today the number has dropped to two.

Appemidi, a wild variety of mango used exclusively to prepare pickles, is fast disappearing from the forest. Three decades ago, appemidi was available in plenty in the forests of Joida, Ramnagar, Sirsi, Yellapur, Siddapur in Uttara Kannada district, Khanapur, Nandgad and Londa in Belgaum district and Kalghatgi in Dharwad district. Growing demand and unscientific extraction of tender mango has resulted in depletion of appemidi trees.

Smuggling of medicinal plants

Large-scale smuggling of medicinal plants, particularly saptarangi (salacia reticulata) billets and guvada (mappia foetida) from Joida and Khanapur forest region continues in spite of constant watch by forest officials.

There have been many instances of the Forest Department apprehending smugglers of forest produce in these regions. In one instance, the forest squad led by the then ACF of Ganeshgudi Ramachandra Andlemane had seized 7,900 kg of saptarangi billets at Hemmadagi forest region in Joida taluka a few years ago.

In 2009, a lorry carrying 40 bags of mappia foetida, being transported in a lorry, was seized in the forest coming under Ganeshgudi forest range. Only three months ago, 20 bags of mappia foetida were seized near Jagalpet in Joida taluk.

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