Chirping birds & the buzz of Burmese chainsaws

Chirping birds & the buzz of Burmese chainsaws

In Phokhungri, under Meluri sub division, villagers use Burmese chainsaws to increase their earnings

Morung Express News
Phokhungri/ Meluri | March 2

Nagaland’s vast virgin forests, which stretch as far as the eye can see, may vanish in decades, with the rising demand of timber and domestic fuel and also with the arrival of a machine – the chainsaw – which has been imported from across the border.

In areas like Phokhungri, under Meluri sub division, chainsaws are imported from Burma. Phokhungri serves as a habitat for a variety of plant and animal species and also the store house of fresh water and clean air.

An unusual combinations of sounds is heard, when one traverses along the large forests of the Phokhungri area. This sound combines the cacophony of the chainsaw interspersed with whispering pines, chirping birds, and some herbivorous animals in the silence of beautiful nature.

Villagers in the area who have started using these machines disclose that more than ten chainsaws have been imported from across the border recently. The chainsaws, with German labels on them, cost Rs 42,000 per piece and are bought from Lashi in Burma. The villagers say that these machines are still in large demand.

According to the villagers, the use of chainsaws has drastically reduced the amount of time and labour required to cut timber for sale. Expressing visible satisfaction with their machines, they inform that with the help of chainsaws, four persons can cut 4-5 ‘thaks,’ measuring 6×6 ft of firewood. The cut firewood is arranged and sold for Rs 1300 on the spot itself. The entire process takes about three days. If done manually, the process from cutting the firewood would require three weeks, besides an increase in the cost of firewood. The villagers mostly sell the cut wood to local log merchants.

The chainsaws require around 5 to 6 liters of petrol a day and can cut around 30 cft of plank. The same job would require around six persons if done manually. Villagers also disclose that the cost of a chainsaw can be recovered within eight months time. If any parts of the machine are damaged they import the parts from Burma.

The villagers further say that, with the coming of the chainsaw, life has become easier. The vast geography and the richness of the forest in the area enable villagers in Phokhungri to cut any quantity of wood in the forest reserve, provided that the wood is used for domestic purposes and not for commercial use.

Sensing the need for road connectivity and development, some of the villagers in the area make deals with the local contractors. As part of these deals, the contractors are allowed to take 700-800 truckloads of high quality wood, provided that they provide some sort of road connectivity to the village.

In a place where felling timber and selling of wood is a major avenue for villagers to earn, the chainsaws from Burma have occupied a space which gives them personification. These inanimate machines run on petrol have increased the earnings of villagers, while simultaneously speeding up the rate of deforestation. Like many other areas of the world, permeation of ‘modernity’ into indigenous ‘lifestyles’ of the Nagas have created a complex milieu. The Burmese chainsaws of Phokhungri are an example.