Port Wings News Network:
The recent killing of 20 woodcutters from Tamil Nadu in the Seshachalam Hills, Andhra Pradesh, for allegedly smuggling redsanders has opened a fierce debate among the activists on the sophisticated shadow network of smuggling of the products banned under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora (CITES).
Besides, the killings also raised serious doubts over the government of Andhra Pradesh’s ability on curbing the smugglers and also the moral responsibility of China and Japan, which is accepting the illegally traded goods giving scant regard to CITES obligation that put the onus on both the countries to curb smuggling.
What is Redsanders:
Red Sanders is an endangered species found naturally only in four districts of Andhra Pradesh. The tree growth is extremely slow and takes decades to gain thickness. The deep red-coloured wood is sturdy and does not lose shape even in harsh temperatures and humidity.
Though there is no final conclusion on the usage red Sanders, there is a common belief that it is used in making musical instruments, sculpture, furniture and medicines in China and Japan.
Besides, it is also alleged that redsanders is used as a temperature coolant in nuclear reactors in China.
What is CITES?
CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
CITES is an international agreement to which countries adhere voluntarily. Counties that have agreed to be bound by the Convention are known as Parties. Although CITES is legally binding on the Parties – in other words they have to implement the Convention – it does not take the place of national laws. Rather it provides a framework to be respected by each Party, which has to adopt its own domestic legislation to ensure that CITES is implemented at the national level.
In the case of redsanders, it has been clearly established that both China and Japan are violating the CITES obligation thus favouring the illegal trade.
Patronage from China and Japan for Smuggling:
Redsanders is easy to carve and a tonne of the wood fetches between Rs 20 lakh and Rs 40 lakh in the international market, which is China and Japan.
According to Andhra Pradesh Forest Department estimates, 3,000 tonnes of redsanders are illegally removed from its forests every year and exported via sea as well as air through dubious exporters in China and Japan.
Red Sanders smuggling has been going on for a long time, but has increased substantially in the past few years.
Though around 1,000 tonnes of redsanders is seized every year in the country against the 3,000 tonnes of “Production,” no one in the governmental setup responsible for curbing the illegal trade, be it Customs Department, Department of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) or even the Central Bureau of Investigation, never reached the actual exporters or importers in China and Japan.
The Mode of Trade:
As per government estimates, more than two third of the illegally removed redsanders gets smuggled out of the country.
Speaking to Port Wings, one of the exporters of agri commodities to Far East on condition of anonymity, said, “Going by the official estimates, about 2000 tonnes of redsanders are being smuggled out of the country either through sea or air. So, it has been established that Customs Department has failed to curb the trade in the absence on robust checking measures. On the other hand, we never heard a single case of redsanders seizure from China or Japan till now and it clearly suggests that both the countries are hand-in-glove with the smugglers.”
“Hence, it is clear that both China and Japan are the main culprits in the illegal trade and due to their tacit support for redsanders, the smuggling of the wood is rampant from India,” he added.
According to information available, in the 1930s, Japan commenced to import Indian redsanders for the manufacture of the traditional Shamisen musical instrument and the market remains important even today at a level of several hundred tonnes per annum.
Demand by Japan for wavy grain quality timber resulted in significant illegal destructive exploitation of the wild resources in 1950s and 1960s.
Besides Japan, China as well as a number of other countries in the East are known to import redsanders, for various use.
Only Interpol rein in on China & Japan:
According to experts, INTERPOL should investigate the usage of illegally imported redsanders in China and Japan, and find those “Importers” to fix culpability in supporting the trade.