Log Extraction In Myanmar

The Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry has formulated the Myanmar Forest Policy (1995) and recognized the importance of the Myanmar forests in enhancing national socio-economic development and ensuring ecological balance and environmental stability.

 Log Extraction in Myanmar


1.       Introduction


            The Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry has formulated the Myanmar Forest Policy (1995) and recognized the importance of the Myanmar forests in enhancing national socio-economic development and ensuring ecological balance and environmental stability. The policy has identified six imperatives: Protection, Sustainability, Basic needs, Efficiency, Participation and Public awareness. In fact, the Forest Policy focuses on the balanced approach towards conservation and development in a sustainable manner, highlights environmental and biodiversity conservation, encourage people's participation in forest management, and opens up the opportunities for increased private sector involvement in timber trade.


            In line with the Myanmar Forest Policy, Myanma Timber Enterprise constitutes itself as an economically viable organization. It places emphasis on open market-oriented economy, sustainable production of forest products with the least impact on the forest and its environment, and increased production and export of value-added wood products.


2.       Chronology of Myanma Timber Enterprise


            Myanmar forests have been sustainably managed under the Myanmar Selection System since 1856. The system involves a parallel performing of timber harvesting and silvicultural treatment. Of five governmental institutions in the forestry sector of Myanmar, two main institutions are mainly responsible for implementing the system. Myanma Timber Enterprise undertakes timber harvesting and utilization whilst Forest Department carries out forest management and conservation.


            Before Second World War, teak was extracted from Myanmar forests by five British Companies. After independence being regained, the State Timber Board (STB) was formed on 5st April 1948 and empowered to undertake the commercial exploitation, processing and marketing of teakwood. Established private national timber businessmen were granted licenses to continue extraction of non-teak hardwoods under contracts. Local sawmillers were allowed to mill and process non-teak hardwoods by permits being issued for operating on yearly basis. In 1953, STB acquired the service of Mr. H. F. Schewiert to prepare plans for the development of wood-based industries.


            Hardwood marketing was nationalized in 1963 and all private-owned sawmills were also brought under the State control in 1965 under the socialist economic system.


            In 1974, STB was reformed and renamed as Timber Corporation (TC). It is enlarged with four Departments: Extraction, Mill & Marketing, Engineering and Account.


            From 1975 to 1985, five projects were implemented with loans and grants from International Development Aids (IDA), Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Japan International Development Cooperation Agency (JICA).


            In 1989, Myanmar economy was reformed to the market-oriented economy. At the same time, Timber Corporation was restructured and renamed as Myanma Timber Enterprise. Nowadays, Myanma Timber Enterprise is a well-structured business governmental institution and constitutes eight departments employing about 30,000 personnel as shown in Figure 1.


Figure 1: Organization of the Myanma Timber Enterprise

3.       Timber Harvesting


            Until now, the Myanma Timber Enterprise is the solely organization responsible for timber harvesting, following instructions in the National Code of Forest Harvesting Practices in line with the Myanma Selection System. The Forest Department prescribes the annual allowable cut on the basis of its inventory of trees and its growing stock, performs selection and marking of teak and hardwood trees to be green-felled within the year and girdles teak to be left for about three year for natural drying.


            On receiving the records of the girdled teak trees and marked teak and non-teak hardwood trees together with compartment or coupe maps from the Forest Department, the respective Extraction Agency Manager sends them to the relevant assistant managers. At the same time, he manages to get the field entry permission from the Forest Department to carry out a ground check, which is inevitably important for preparation of timber harvesting annual operation plan. In addition to annual operation plan, Myanma Timber Enterprise also prepares another two harvesting plans: 30-years plan (long-term plan) and 5-years plan (medium-term plan).


            After having done the ground check and prepared the harvesting annual operation plan, the extraction manager manages to get permission for harvesting operations from the Forest Department. With this permission, the marked trees are harvested by the Extraction Department of Myanma Timber Enterprise in line with AAC set by Forest Department and the plans prepared in advance of actual operations.


            In carrying out the harvesting operations including road construction, Myanma Timber Enterprise adheres to its own extraction manual (1948), Forest Law (1992), Forest Rules (1995), standing orders, departmental instructions and logging rules, and national code of forest harvesting practices in Myanmar (2000).



3.1     Selection marking of trees


            According to the Myanmar Selection System, the Forest Department selects trees for cutting or girdling, which have reached prescribed minimum exploitable girth requirements. The minimum girths vary from species to species depending on their growth rate and their size at maturity. The minimum girth limit for teak is set to be at 6 ft and 6 in at breast height and that for other hardwoods at 6 ft and above at breast height.


            The selected trees are blazed at two places, one blaze to be left on the stump after felling and the other on the felled tree. The sign "Mark" and serial number are hammered into the tree on the blaze.








Figure 2: Selection marking of a tree for felling; (a) measuring the tree to determine if it will be selected for felling or not, (b) upper blaze and (c) lower blaze


3.2     Felling of trees


            The Myanma Timber Enterprise fells the selected trees or girdled teak trees. Before felling, the base of the tree and undergrowth nearby are cleared, the felling direction selected according to the natural direction of fall and a run-away path prepared. The great attention was given to workers' safety as well as to minimize damage to the remaining standing trees and regeneration. The felling of a marked tree includes making three precise cuts in the order: bottom cut (horizontal cut), top cut (hinge cut) and back cut. The task is accomplished in according to Extraction Manual, Standing Orders for Extraction Staff, Reduced Impact Logging and the National Code of Forest Harvesting Practices in Myanmar. Within 48 hrs, the "Extraction Agency Hammer" is imprinted at least five times on the end of the felled trees.





Figure 3: Felling of a teak tree in a systematic way; (a) bottom cut and top cut and (b) back cut


3.3     Log bucking / Logging


            The scalers make decision where to buck the felled trees in accordance with Standing Orders for Extraction Staff, Logging Rules and Field Jungle Rejection Rules, with emphasis given to maximize log value. Bucking is generally done where forks, large branches, bends or sharp girth changes appear. The bucked log generally bears extraction agency hammer, compartment hammer, log number, serial number of tree, personal hammer (Forest Department and Myanma Timber Enterprise), species code and quality grade. After bucking all felled trees within the compartment, the senior timber ranger or the responsible person inspects all bucked logs and imprints his personal hammer (inspection hammer), which means the logs can be stumped.










Figure 4: Bucking of felled trees; (a) Measuring trees to be bucked, (b) bucking, (c) hammering the bucked log, and (d) Debarking of the bucked log at mid-length to measure girth.


3.4       Stumping/Dragging


               The Myanma Timber Enterprise makes use of animal and mechanical power for stumping process. Animal skidding is the most economically and environmentally friendly method as it precludes the construction of costly and easily erodible roads. Moreover, it also prevents the possible destruction of the remaining valuable stands and regeneration. However, it does need making sound drag holes at the end of the logs.  As the Myanma Timber Enterprise owns about 1600 working elephants and hires 1500 private-owned elephants for stumping process, a significant volume of timber harvested annually are stumped by elephants. To make the best use of elephant power in stumping, the shortest and easiest way is sought for and applied.


               When using mechanical power for stumping, elephants assist to drag logs from stump to wider drag paths or clearings just outside the harvested area. Further hauling or skidding is done by skidders to the measuring point or forest car base.









Figure 5: Stumping by elephants; (a) elephant harness warehouse, (b) preparation of smooth surface at the lower end of the log to be easily dragged, (c) measuring point or car base where elephant-dragged logs are collected


3.5       Forest road construction

               Forest road construction is the main factor causing damage to forest soils and the environment. In addition, it also destroys some forest area and accelerates erosion and siltation, which is the most significant problem in Myanmar with torrential monsoon rainfalls. Thus, it is of significant importance to take into consideration these facts to select the right main road in forest road construction. Myanma Timber Enterprise sticks mainly to the Reduce Impact Logging (RIL) and the National Code of Forest Harvesting Practices in Myanmar (NCOHP) in constructing forest roads to minimize the impacts to the forests, growing stock, regeneration and the environment. Keeping these in mind, Myanma Timber Enterprise uses old forest roads after reconstruction where favourable. If to construct new ones, the shortest possible and cost-effective way is chosen, side and double cuttings being avoided. Generally, bulldozers and backhoes are employed in constructing forest roads.







Figure 6: Forest road construction; (a) renovation of old forest roads, (b) construction of a new forest road, (c) bridge construction and (d) constructed forest road.

3.6     Transportation of logs


            The extracted logs are transported to terminal depots in Yangon, or local sawmills by means of river floating in rafts or barges, or by rail or by trucks.







Figure 7: Transportation of extracted logs; (a) loading of logs onto the truck, (b) transportation by trucks, (c) transportation in barges and (d) transportation by rafting


3.7     Closing forest roads and returning coupes and compartments


            After having completed timber harvesting operations, the forest roads are closed and the bridges are collapsed so that illegal loggers cannot access the forests harvested. Then, the compartments and coupes are returned to the Forest Department, which does required inspections in line with the Myanmar Selection System. If the damages to the remaining valuable growing stock and regeneration are severer than the acceptable level or the height of stumps is longer than the prescribed limits, then, the Myanma Timber Enterprise has to compensate them.


4.       Advantages of timber harvesting


            Forests produce goods and services such as wildlife habitat, scenic views, opportunities for recreation, timber, non-timber forest products, and provide environmental benefits such as carbon sequestration, air and water purification, erosion and siltation control, etc. On the other hand, timber harvesting can have negative impacts on the forests, soils, wildlife, etc. However, the well-planned harvesting practices have economic, social, silvicultural and environmental advantages.


Economic advantage: Timber harvesting generates income by supplying domestic demand and by exporting forest products. In 2011, it generates Kyats 28, 246 million and US$ 525.202 million.


Social advantage: Timber harvesting creates jobs and opportunities for investments.


Silvicultural advantage: Harvesting allows more growing spaces for the remaining stand, saplings and seedlings. Moreover, it also lessens competition for soil nutrients and sunlight. Thus, the remaining trees and regeneration can grow bigger and more rapidly.


Environmental advantage: If mature forests are not harvested, they may be carbon neutral above ground, as they will emit and sequester equal amounts of CO2. Thus, mature trees should be harvested. Carbon trading without timber harvesting is a promising potential in the future economy of Myanmar. However, as the Kyoto Protocol's emission reduction targets are not successfully implemented, the current practice of sustainable harvesting of the forests is the most feasible way in Myanmar. 


5.       Conclusion


            According to recorded data, the British timber companies annually extracted 281,695 Hoppus ton of teak and 65,481 Hoppus ton of other hardwoods from 1856 to 1939; 275,922 Hoppus ton of teak and 356,163 Hoppus ton of other hardwoods from 1946 to 1988; and 280,755 Hoppus ton of teak and 883,822 Hoppus ton of other hardwoods from 1988 to 2010.

            Myanma Timber Enterprise currently extracts about 200,000 Hoppus ton of teak and 1,200,000 Hoppus ton of other hardwoods. Of these, some are exported in log form and some are processed into sawn timber and finished products. The major portion of teak sawn timber and teak finished products are exported whereas hardwood sawn timber and products are distributed locally for construction and railway sleepers.


            Myanma Timber Enterprise is a major contributor to the national economy, but it is conservative in the use of raw materials available from the natural forests. Thus, it is planned to reduce timber harvesting gradually, to ban log export on 1st April 2014 and to develop wood-based industries.


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