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BURMA

FICU'S ENCLOSING A TEAK TREE. GIRTH OVER FICUS, 17 FT. 5 IN.

From ?roup's “Sylviculture of Indian Irees"

OF

CHAPTER XIII

FOREST OPERATIONS IN BURMA (TENASSERIM), 1850–1857

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DR. FALCONER'S REPORT
S has been shown, Mr. Colvin, Commissioner of Tenas-

serim, organised, after Captain Latter's resignation
in 1847, what amounted to a small Forest Depart-

ment, one of the Commissioner's Assistants being placed in charge, and made proposals to Government on the subject of granting perpetual leases of the forests to timber contractors on certain conditions. The most important of these were that the latter should undertake to replant teak on the areas from which they cut the mature trees, and that they should be prohibited from felling young trees. The proviso that the areas felled should be replanted with from three to five young teak for every one removed, had, indeed, formed a condition of the old leases, but it had never been carried out. Grave fears were, therefore, entertained that, with such staff as it was considered financially possible to maintain to superintend the forests, it would be impossible to ensure that licence-holders would carry out in the future a condition which had been so flagrantly disregarded in the past. To solve this question Dr. Falconer, of the Calcutta Botanical Gardens, was deputed in 1849 to visit and report on the Tenasserim Forests, with especial regard to the amount of teak timber they still contained, the abundance or otherwise of young teak growth, the probability of the licence-holders replanting their areas and the possibility of forming plantations, or otherwise securing adequate supplies of young teak on the areas, to ensure the conservation of the forests.

Falconer submitted his Report in January, 1851.

After describing the two species of teak in Burma (Tectona grandis and T. Hamiltoni), of which the former is the chief timber species, and briefly alluding to the geographical features of the country, Falconer reviewed the previous history of the teak forests from Wallich's tours downwards, pointing out how the latter's warnings that the making over of the forests to timber contractors would inevitably result in their ruin had come true. The four Government nurseries or plantations formed by Captain Tremenheere in 1843 had entirely failed, want of adequate supervision being the cause. It was admitted that the teak trees still standing in the forests were annually loaded with good seed, millions of which annually strewed the ground; yet while the Government surveyors and grantees alike agreed that the forests were rapidly approaching exhaustion, it was equally admitted that in the valuable and extensive Attaran Forests there was no appearance of young trees rising to replace in adequate numbers those which had been felled. All were agreed on this head, with the exception of Latter, who made the extraordinary statement that in his opinion healthy adult teak did not yield good seed, but only trees which were in a state of decrepitude and decay, an opinion which would scarcely have required the authoritative disclaimer it received, were it not for the fact that Latter's Reports on his tours had been printed and widely circulated by Government. Latter's explanation of the action of the epithytic species of Ficus, found so commonly enclosing the teak stems on the Attaran, or, as he termed them, the species of parasitical Ficus, was also a curious one. After describing the way they spread round and

up the tree he stated, “ till last comes the closing scene the parasite has entirely enveloped the original tree in its deadly folds, and absorbing all the juices of its life, nothing remains but the projected stump of some withered arms to show that any other plant had been there.” This drew from the Doctor the following sarcastic comment and interesting explanation : The epithytic species of Ficus . . . enclose the teak in their embrace, in the manner described by Captain Latter, except that they are not true parasites, and do not suck the juices of the trees upon which they grow, using them merely as fulcra of growth. They chiefly fix upon very large trees, and infest other forest species besides teak, in the course of time smothering and destroying the finest timber in the forests. The reason of their being so frequent on teak I believe to be this: the Tenasserim Forests abound in two large species of Buceros; these birds feed largely upon the fruits of the Nyoung-ben, or wild figs; they are timid and very wary in their habits, and generally perch upon the highest branches of the loftiest trees having any tendency to deciduous leaves. The tall teak trees are, in consequence, their favourite haunts: and the fig seeds after digestion are dropped by them in the most favourable condition for germination, and are caught in the forks of the large branches, whence, after germinating, they send down their long roots along the trunk to the ground, and ultimately envelop the tree. As these parasites infest only the largest trees, the obvious remedy is to fell the timber upon which they make their appearance.'

To return to the teak natural regeneration. It was only in the forests along the Thoung-Yeen River that fair crops of young teak had been reported.

Falconer set out on his tour to investigate and report on these matters. Captain Berdmore, of the Madras Artillery, an Assistant to the Commissioner, in charge of the Forest Office, accompanied the Doctor on his tour, the party leaving on January 30th, 1849. They first visited the forests on the Weinyo and Zimmé Rivers, and then inspected the KyoonGeown, Megwa, Mittigate, Mittigate Codoogway, the Upper Mittigate Forests and those on the Goonjee Creek, Toung Wyn and Natchoung; the teak coming to an end at the latter which, being the nearest to Moulmein, had been completely worked out, although the teak it yielded was of a stunted inferior kind.

Falconer summed up the general results of his tour as follows : “ The teak forests upon the Weinyo and Zimmé Rivers are in rapid progress of exhaustion. The forests which were in the hands of native licence-holders have been, in most instances, entirely cleared out both of large timber and of undersized trees approaching the regulation standard. The large forests towards the heads of the rivers, held by Europeans of capital, have been actively worked for nearly twenty years, and are also either in the same condition, or will be speedily exhausted. Of the three reserved forests formerly held for Government, the Mittigate Codoogway has been leased out, and is now under the full operation of the axe; its resources having been largely drawn upon before it was held in reserve. The only two now reserved, viz. the Thengan-nyee-Nyoung and the Upper Mittigate, instead of being intact forests, have been partially worked by trespass, by the adjoining forest holders—the former to a large extent, the latter in a less degree. Both forests contain standing teak timber of large scantling,

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the Upper Mittigate in particular abounding in the finest trees. So general and indiscriminate have been the fellings upon the Weinyo and Zimmé that, but for the timber in these two reserved forests, it would now be a matter of record only that teak of large size has ever been produced on the Attaran.

Young timber is nowhere rising in adequate quantity, either to renew the forests or to keep up the supply. The reason of this having been that the forest regulations up to 1846 were inoperative, and undersized trees were felled equally with the large timber, the greater facility of dragging them through the forests, and the ready sale met with at Moulmein, having held out irresistible inducement for their consumption.

“The forests have been worked, even by grantees of capital, entirely with a view to immediate or speedy returns; their maintenance for future supplies, and the creation of prospective property, have in no case been attended to. The owners have rarely, or only at long intervals, visited their grants : they have been in the habit of carrying on their operations by means of native agents, who have conducted them with reckless waste and improvidence. The most destructive agent, after the axe, I consider to have been the periodical fires ; and these are referable in most instances, in the remote forests on the Attaran, to conflagrations purposely caused by the working parties, so as to clear the grass jungle, and enable them to move with safety about the forests. I believe these fires to have been much more prevalent since the country passed into our hands than they were when the forests were in the state of nature. Planting young trees, or raising nurseries from seed, has in no instance been attended to by the grantees, or if there has been a solitary exceptional case, the attempt has been made with so little effort to attain success, that there is probably not a young tree in the whole of the forests that owes its origin to the hand of man.

“Although young seedlings of spontaneous growth are occasionally met with, as in the case of the young eight-year-old teak seen upon the Thengan-nyee-Nyoung River, they are, generally speaking, rare in the Attaran Forests, and bear no proportion either to the vast quantity of good seed annually produced, or to the trees which have been felled, or are still standing, and consequently to the requirements of the forests for renewal.”

Falconer stated that the above observations of his own merely confirmed, by a later observer, the statements already

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