There are plans to construct a dam upriver from Homalin to serve the Chinese. It will impact life along the Chindwin in the future.
Many houses on the river were made of teak. But in other parts of the country, where teak was not just outside the back door, homes or bashas were made of bamboo. As in India, bamboo is used for everything, from paper to particle board to knit hats.
With all the teak logging on the Chindwin, one would think teak grew like weeds…well perhaps it did in the past but it is quickly being depleted. Some old practices still exist but modern equipment is being introduced.
To germinate teak seeds, they must be placed in a fire, then soaked in water. It takes 45 days for the seeds to germinate.
As mentioned in an earlier blog, Myanmar has implemented British Forestry practices, with a 60 year rotation for teak wood. But given the number of logs being harvested, the regeneration quantity will not meet the harvesting volumes.
Logs are milled within the country rather than exported abroad to foreign mills where the finished product fetches a higher price.
Due to a lack of roads in this region, most of the logs are tied together as a raft to be transported to the mill. While watching the log rafts move down river, the novel Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey came to my mind.
The teak industry is labor intensive. It requires a mobile infrastructure that moves from one log camp to the next, once a site has been harvested. Barrels of oil are shipped to the roving logging camps to power portable generators.
Men are needed to cut, load, grade and track the trees. Wayward teak rafts are known to disappear before reaching their final mill destination.
Accounting records held by one government official showed 100 logs that ranged in size from 12ft diameter x 25ft long to 7ft diameter x 22 ft long weighing 287,000 tonnes within one log raft. Logs that size are most likely from virgin forests, soon to be extinct. But what are the alternatives to teak production? Gold, jade, and opium.
Gold and jade mines provide get-rich-quick job opportunities, but since this work is far from home, the men become bored. Enterprising dealers find ways to help them spend their free time and money on other forms of entertainment, such as opium. It’s not unusual for men to become trapped by the good money and drugs.
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