John Nisbet.

Burma under British rule--and before; (Volume 2) online

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the agents of the permit-holders or lessees had been
guilty of illicit girdling on a large scale. The timber
girdled by Government might either be sold as it stood in
the forest to private parties for extraction, or it might be
brought out by direct departmental agency and disposed
of by public auction or by sales on indent.

With the Forest Act and Rules of 1865 the second
period of progress commenced in the history of forest
administration in Burma. It was soon found that, as
the Act did not relate to foreign timber imported from
Upper Burma, Siam, and the Shan States, all the rules
dealing therewith were illegal, hence special amendments
had to be made. As the working plans of 1856 for Pegu
and of i860 for Martaban and Tenasserim lapsed in 1867,
new proposals for girdling operations had to be prepared
before the autumn of 1868. As in 1856, linear valua-
tion surveys (over about 140,000 acres) and investigations
regarding the rate of growth formed the basis of the new
working plan. It was estimated that the stock of mature
teak timber amounted to 934,000 first-class trees, and that
it took seventy-two years for a young second-class tree of
four and a half feet girth to develop into a first-class tree
of six feet — that is to say, thrice as long as was in 1856
calculated to be requisite. Subsequent experience, how-
ever, again showed that this estimate was too unfavour-
able, as that of 1856 had been too sanguine. As a
precaution against overworking the forests the number
of trees to be annually girdled was reduced from 24,300
to 1 1,600, and this yield was fixed for the next five years,
1868 to 1873.



By the time this new working plan lapsed in 1873
extensive illicit girdlings by lessees had been discovered
in the forests on both sides of the Sittang river, and the
Government of India had ordered that henceforth no
fresh leases were to be granted. The last lease expired
in 1877. After 1873 no specific working plan was
adopted for the regulation of girdling operations. For
several years these were almost suspended, being con-
fined merely to localities which showed, after examination
by a forest officer, that regeneration of teak was good
enough to permit of some of the mature trees being
removed without endangering the reproduction of this
species in the forest.

The following seven or eight years, till the passing of
the Burma Forest Act, 1881, formed a period of great
activity in the then still small Forest Department. Until
1873 protection extended only to teak, and not to any
other trees. But in that year thitka {Pentace Burmanica)
and thitkado {Cedrela Toona), woods like mahogany in
appearance and texture, were declared to be reserved
trees. As both of these were found suitable for furniture
and tea boxes, large quantities of them were extracted
for home use as furniture, and for export to Calcutta
for making tea boxes. By reservation and levying royalty
on these two trees the Government not only obtained
revenue to which they were legitimately entitled, but
also caused timber consumers to turn their attention to
the many other useful kinds of timber as yet unreserved,
and therefore able to be extracted for home consump-
tion or for export free from all payment of revenue.

With the increase of population under good govern-
ment and the rapid development then taking place in the
trade and general prosperity throughout British Burma,
the extraction of unreserved woods soon assumed such
proportions as to justify Government in reserving other
twelve species of trees on ist January, 1876. At the
same time the boundaries were extended within which
the forest rules applied, a new procedure was provided
for making Reserves or State Forests, and regulations
were issued for the granting of permits to extract reserved
kinds of timber.



As regards the reserved trees the principle adopted
was that Government was entitled to payment of a low
rate of royalty on all such timber extracted for purposes
of trade. Two classes of licenses were therefore intro-
duced, " trade permits " and " free permits," which could
be issued by gazetted civil officers as well as by the
officers of the Forest Department. Each permit speci-
fied where the timber was to be extracted from, and
where it was to be marked with either the sale or the
free hammer before being disposed of or consumed.

Theoretically the reservation of these twelve kinds of
trees was quite sound, but in practice it did not work
very successfully, although it produced a fair amount of
revenue. In a thickly forested country containing at
least fifteen hundred different species of trees there were
of course many which in the log were practically indis-
tinguishable from one or other of the actually reserved
species. For example, it is almost impossible to dis-
tinguish between logs of pyinma {Lagerstroemia RegincB)
and leza {L. tomentosa) ; hence on arrival at a revenue
station the latter were declared to be unreserved and
exempt from duty, while after conversion they were for
selling purposes practically pyinma wood. However,
one of the objects of Government was gained in causing
attention to be given to the many other good woods in
the Burma forests that had hitherto remained unutilized.
Rather than be at the trouble and inconvenience of
obtaining free permits for reserved wood required for
domestic or agricultural purposes the people in general
took to utilizing other kinds of timber, whose useful
qualities gradually introduced these to the market.

The system which has now in course of time sprung
up from these beginnings is that certain kinds of trees
having specific commercial value are classed as reserved
trees, and can only be cut and extracted under licenses
upon payment of revenue varying according to the value
of the particular kind of timber, while unreserved trees
growing on land outside areas reserved, or preliminarily
notified for reservation, as State forests can be cut
unrestrictedly for bcnid fide home consumption.

In 1870 the Government of India had already become



convinced that the maintenance of a future supply of
teak timber could only be secured by the formation of
plantations (in Lower Burma), and that simple cultural
operations could not be relied on to effect satisfactory
regeneration. They therefore at this time laid down that
the principal work of the Forest Department should con-
sist in the selection of the best areas to be formed into
State reserved forests and in the formation of teak planta-
tions. From 1842 onwards experimental plantations had
been made, mostly with unsatisfactory results, in the Ten-
asserim forests, and from 1857 onwards at various places
in the Irrawaddy and the Sittang valleys. The areas
were cleared, prepared, and sown by direct departmental
agency ; but these so-called " regular plantations " proved
so expensive that it soon became apparent that some less
costly method was essential. The idea had long been
entertained of trying to induce the Karen hill tribes to
plant teak along with the rice raised in their hill clearings,
thus utilizing as a means of propagating teak the wasteful
7Tm«c>j^ system of cultivation shifting annually. In 1868
Major (now Major-General) Seaton, the Conservator of
Forests, succeeded in getting work of this sort done in
several forest districts, the cultivators being paid so much
per hundred plants alive when the rice crop was harvested
in autumn. Gradually the Karens took to the business,
finally becoming so eager in earning this additional income
that now the difficulty is rather to find within the fire-
protected portions of the State reserved forest areas
suitable for planting — that is to say, without already con-
taining teak trees to a greater or less extent — than to
persuade the Karens to form such plantations. The
result has been that, up to 1898, 3,667 acres of regular
and 52,231 acres of Taungya plantations have been
formed, mostly of teak, but also including some cutch
among the latter class. The method now usually adopted
is to mark out the cleared area with pegs at nine feet by
four feet (1,210 plants per acre), — this having been found
preferable, for subsequent weeding operations, to six feet
by six feet or any other distance. In good plantations
canopy is formed during the second or third years, and
thenceforth the rate of growth is very rapid, a height of



seventy feet or more being often obtained within about
sixteen to twenty years.

The work of selecting State forests as reserves was
also prosecuted vigorously, more especially during the
Conservatorship of Mr. Ribbentrop (1875-82), who later
became Inspector- General of Forests to the Government
of India (1885-1900). Under the rules of 1865 any divi-
sional forest officer could reserve areas up to 100 acres
in extent. This was merely intended, and was sufficient,
for enabling experimental plantations to be formed in
suitable localities ; but the existing legislation was hardly
sufficient to deal with reservation on a large scale, such
as was necessary in the best interests of the province,
when the advantages of forest conservancy became
better understood and appreciated. The task faced by
the small Department was to select for reservation the
best teak-producing tracts throughout the whole of Pegu
and Tenasserim, for teak is not indigenous to any portion
of Arakan, and to demarcate them permanently after
once they had been notified as State reserves. But great
practical difficulties were experienced in carrying out this
work, and an immense amount of prejudice and opposi-
tion on the part of the district civil authorities had often
to be overcome, sometimes at the cost of the loss of very
valuable portions of forest land. Hence it not infre-
quently happened that the reserves had to be formed not
of the very best tracts of woodland, but only of such
portions as could be obtained with the consent of the
civil authorities.

The State, as the inheritor of the rights of the King
of Burma, could not but be regarded as having the owner-
ship of all waste land and forest not alienated by grant or
under the customary tenure for agricultural occupation.
On the other hand, however, the people generally had
been, from immemorial time, in the habit of making un-
restricted use of the forests for felling wood and bamboos,
extracting wood-oil for torches, cutting grass for thatch-
ing, grazing their cattle, and clearing forest land for
temporary or permanent cultivation. Thus, although
they had no actual proprietary rights, the people liv-
ing within the forests and in their vicinity had been



accustomed to privileges amountin