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and scarcely anything that was accessible escaped the axe. Now came delay in the railway works, failure of the contractors and want of money. The cut timber was abandoned wholesale where it lay. Teak wood is full of oil and burns readily after lying for a short time. The jungle fires occurred as usual in the long grass where the logs were lying, and the great majority of them were burnt! The exact amount of the destruction can never be known. For years afterwards, when exploring in the forests, we continued to come on the charted remains of multitudes of these slaughtered innocents, most of them being quite immature and unfit for felling at any time. All that were worth anything were saved by the Forest Department in after years, and the value even of these amounted to many lacs of rupees. They were not a hundredth part of those that were cut, which should probably be reckoned by millions rather than thousands. The injury done to the forests and to the country by this most mistaken measure may never be recovered ; certainly it cannot be recovered in less than two generations of the people's life. Such was one of the most material results of the utter ignorance of the administrative officers of that period regarding everything connected with the wilder portions of their charge. The mischief had been completed, and most of the timber speculators had bolted from their creditors, leaving their logs smoking in the forests, before the formation of the Central Provinces, and ere the Forest Department had entered on their labour of exploring and arranging for the protection of what was still worth looking after."
Fifty years have passed since this vivid description of the deplorable aftermath of the Mutiny was written, and the present state of improvement which scientific Forest Conservancy has already brought to these ruined forests forms an eloquent testimony to the high efficiency of the Forest Officers who have followed each other in the care of this great charge. It proved heartbreaking work at first, and another fifty years must in all probability elapse before the forests of this region can hope to have approached (not reached) to some degree of normality.
It will be remembered (I, p. 396) that during Brandis' visit to the Central Provinces and tour of inspection with Pearson in 1863 it had been settled that the latter should make an attempt to protect one or more of his forest areas from fire. That it would be possible to introduce into India the protection of the forests from fire was openly derided by probably all district Civil Officers and most of the existing Forest Officers. That this attitude was a natural one to take up is easy to realise when the fact is borne in mind that from time immemorial the forests had been burnt annually over larger or smaller areas, either purposely to obtain an early crop of young grass with the arrival of the first rains or from sheer carelessness. Michael had made an attempt in the Anaimalais in the 'fifties without much success. Brandis himself whilst in Burma had stated that it was too early yet in the history of Forest Conservancy to attempt to introduce fire protection. Nevertheless, it was settled that Pearson should institute the first trial, and the areas selected with Brandis' approval were one block in the Bori Forest at the foot of the Pachmarhi Hills and a second block in the Jugmundel Forest of the Kormeyr plateau in the Mandla Hills. Both the forests selected for this purpose were capable of isolation by the natural features of the country, and were in other ways well adapted for the experiment. For carrying out the work in the Bori Forest, Pearson obtained the services of Lieutenant (afterwards Colonel) Doveton, Ist M.I. Pearson attributes the great success which was achieved in this, the first, attempt made in India at protecting a forest from fire to the unremitting zeal and watchfulness, as well as the tact shown in dealing with the natives, displayed by Doveton. The Conservator rightly adds : " It is impossible to overestimate the importance of this success, as most Foresters and every Civil Officer in the country scouted the idea of forest protection from fire and everything connected with it, and had the attempt been a failure any progress in fire-protection elsewhere would have been rendered immeasurably more difficult.” Fire protection was to play a great part in Forest Conservancy in India in the future, and as Pearson subsequently generously affirmed it was to Doveton (and we may add to the Conservator himself who planned the scheme on which Doveton acted) that the subsequent progress was largely due, in his classic example of the Bori reserve.
Douglas had charge of the fire-protection work in the Jugmundel reserve. The work here was not at first attended with the same success as in the Bori reserve. This was in no way attributed to any want of care on the part of that officer, but was solely due to the hostility of the “ahirs ” in charge of herds of cattle which were brought up from the lowlands to graze in the Mandla uplands. These people wanted to continue to burn the grass for their own purposes. Many a Forest Officer since then has been placed in a similar position to that with which Douglas was confronted, as will be mentioned in a later chapter on the protection of the forests.
Forsyth was Acting Conservator in 1864-5, and his Annual Forest Progress Report for that year is a most interesting document, although unfortunately too long for reproduction here. In it he shows clearly the great progress made in the forest conservation work during the brief period the Forest Department had been in existence. Demarcation work still absorbed the energies of the Forest Officers, but much other work, including a commencement in the protection of the forests, was accomplished.
Brandis had drawn up an outline of the heads upon which the Annual Forest Administration Reports of the provinces and administrations should be prepared in order to secure uniformity. These heads were as follows :
I. Survey and examination of forest tracts little known. II. Demarcation of Reserved Government Forests. III. Protection of the forests and work for their improvement. IV. Selection of trees to be felled, and yield of forests.
V. Financial results. VI. General.
Forsyth gives a detailed description of the work which had been carried out during the year under head I. On the subject of valuation surveys he has some remarks which were very apposite for the period at which they were written : “ Valuation surveys, to be of any value to work from, are dependent on the existence of a really reliable map of the forest to be valued. Where the forests are so irregularly distributed, as they everywhere are in the Central Provinces, it can only lead to a treacherous semblance of certainty to count the trees in a given small portion of the area, and then estimate the aggregate number of trees over the whole area by a simple process of multiplication-two all-important points not having been ascertained, viz. what the whole area is, and whether the part counted was of average richness in trees. It would therefore be, in a great measure, a waste of time to attempt a valuation survey of a reserved tract before the tract has been mapped. In the meantime, however, steps have been taken to record full and accurate data regarding the rates of growth of various kinds of trees under different circumstances; so that, when valuation surveys become possible, this equally necessary element in the calculation of the ' rate of supply' will be available.”
Under head II the total demarcation work accomplished during the year was about 500 linear miles round an area of about 830 sq. miles. The cost of this work was about 9 annas per linear mile. “The greater part of the reserved tracts in Baitool and Seonee have been notified in the Gazette."
On the subject of Protection and Improvements (III) Forsyth's remarks are illuminating and place the position of the provinces at this juncture in a clear light :
“The past year has been one of change and reorganisation in this Department. Up to its commencement it may be said that on one officer alone, the Conservator, lay the whole burden of the current forest work of the vast timber-bearing tracts of these provinces; for although he had nominally two Assistants, yet, in point of fact, they lightened his labour but slightly ; for while one was almost constantly engaged on the unlucky work of the Beejoragogurh sleepers, and was therefore unavailable for any forest work properly so called, the other was as constantly engaged in exploring new regions, which had not been brought under a system of conservation ; nor was the work of the Conservator in any way lightened by aid from the district officers. In the Saugor and Nerbuda territories every patch of jungle, however small, was supposed to be directly attended to by the Conservator, and all applications to cut timber were referred to him. The natural result of this state of affairs was the centralisation of everything in the Conservator's office, who had to issue orders and make arrangements for every operation undertaken by the native establishment in the different districts, who alone was interested in the financial and fiscal state of the Department; and who, consequently, was the sole depositary of knowledge, regarding the resources, capabilities, etc., of the forests, and of the requirements of the market. The difficulties thrown by such an arrangement in the way of a proper system of conservation will be easily appreciated. The task was too vast for anyone to accomplish. The great distances between remote forests, and the necessity of visiting them all in the course of the year, together with the frequent interruption of postal communication when in the wilder parts of the Province, inevitably gave rise to delays in the issue of necessary orders, and left open a way to malpractices and idleness on the part of the native subordinates. It is not to be wondered, then, if conservation remained in a backward state under this system. All that could
a be done was done ; and I may safely say that few men would have effected as much with the means at his disposal as Captain Pearson has done; but still, there can be no doubt that the arrangements were totally inefficient to prevent waste and damage where contractors were admitted to cut; and that, had more liberal measures been adopted at first, the available resources of the Province would have gone much further towards meeting the requirements of the country than they have done.
All this was seen, and the remedy has now been applied. The Province has been parcelled out into six forest divisions, and an Assistant Conservator has been appointed to the executive charge of each. In addition to this, the direct care of the extensive tracts which have not been reserved as Government forests has been entrusted to the district civil officers, with additional native subordinates paid from forest revenue to assist them. These and other new arrangements necessitated numerous changes in the administration of the Department. It had, in fact, to be decentralised. The executive charge of the work in each division had to be more fully entrusted to the Assistant in charge. The relations of the Forest Department with the civil officer in each district had to be adjusted with due consideration to circumstances. A more rigid system of check and account in expenditure and collection of revenue, by the native subordinates, had to be set on foot; men had to be found fit to fill the newly created posts under the district officers, and in the offices of the Assistants. Changes were also called for in the system of disbursing pay and in the method of record in the offices. It was unfortunate that Captain Pearson was compelled, by the effects of exposure, to leave his work on the eve of all these changes, and that it fell on myself, who have but a temporary interest in the forests, to introduce them. I have endeavoured, however, in every case, to give effect to what I believed to be his views and would hope that not much of what I have done will require to be undone."
Forsyth was too modest. As we know Pearson was well aware that he could not have left his work in safer and abler hands. It was the last work which Forsyth was to undertake