The demand for pine trees is not only for the timber but also its roots which have high commercial value due to the high resin content that are extracted from the roots. Not surprisingly pine roots and trunks are seen being collected and placed by the roadside at Raphei areas in Ukhrul district for transportation to the market where it will be sold.
According to villagers, 1 Kg of pine roots cost Rs 12- 15 at the Awang Kasom and in the lean season this can go up to Rs 20 per Kg or at times even more. Due to its demand and high commercial value, villagers have started felling trees and intruding the dense forests in search of pine roots. Due to the hectic foraging for pine roots, even nursery beds of pine trees are not spared.
Demand has obviously outpaced the availability of pine roots and today pine roots traders have started accepting pine trunks at the same rate as the roots even though the resin contents in the trunks are lesser.
According to a report of the Forest Department, Ukhrul district is covered with 3549 Sq Kms of forest land. Out of this one third is covered with virgin rainforest, but now most of this forest area has been reduced to open forest land or secondary forest. The district being located at a high altitude has a favourable climatic condition for rich flora and fauna.
But these natural forest resources have been constantly smuggled to other States through the route NH-202 connecting Ukhrul via Jessami to Dimapur.
According to reliable sources, more than 15 trucks carrying valuable timber cross NH-202, especially in the night.
Signs of pine trees withering away are visible at Ukhrul, Lunghar, Nungpi, Halang, Talui, Langdang, Shirui, Awang Kasom, Halang, Marem, Luireishimphung etc of Ukhrul district due to a disease and the ailment first strikes the pine leaves letting the tree to decay and later wither after some time.
Source: The Sangai Express