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A year passed  with massive devastation by cyclone Gaja 

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A year has passed since the coastal district of Pudukottai witnessed massive devastation when cyclone Gaja unleashed its fury uprooting large number of trees raised by farmers on their lands.

The natural calamity tossed the lives of the farmers who found it a gargantuan task in clearing thousands of uprooted trees on their lands and to sell them for a competitive price when timely initiative came through from the Forest Department.Realising the plight of thousands of farmers affected by cyclone Gaja who were unable to sell the uprooted trees at a decent price, the Forest Department facilitated a tie-up between the agriculturalists and timber merchants from across the State in an effort to make it a win-win deal for both.

The initiative was put in place after the affected farmers who found it hard to get over from the devastation unleashed by the cyclone failed to get a fair price for the uprooted trees from the local timber merchants. The tie-up between the farmers and the timber merchants from other parts of the State facilitated by the Forest Department began to yield positive results from then on.

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A senior Forest Department official said the facilitation paid off eventually helping farmers in selling uprooted trees of various species. Over 5,000 tonnes of uprooted trees of various species had been sold by the farmers since then through the tie-up with the timber merchants who arranged for clearing the fallen trees from the private lands and their transportation, said the official.

The Department had the contact numbers of farmers and that of the timber merchants who came from Erode, Vellore, Salem, Tiruvannamalai and Manapparai offering better price for the uprooted trees, the official said. Although the devastation was wide-spread, the worst affected areas included Alangudi and several villages nearby, Karambakudi and Gandharvakottai, recalled another Forest Department official.

The uprooted trees sold in huge quantities to the timber merchants were tamarind, casuarina, teak, neem, Melia Dubia, red sanders and even rosewood. The facilitation came at a time when the affected farmers had no clue to clear and sell the uprooted trees, the official said. However, there have been several instances wherein farmers had to clear the uprooted trees at their own cost. Many farmers had to pay and engage tractors to clear the uprooted trees from their lands, recalls S.V. Kamarasu, of Karambakadi village in Alangudi taluk. Unable to get the required price, farmers were forced to sell the uprooted trees on their lands to firewood shops getting only a pittance, since many trees were not fully grown, says Mr. Kamarasu, president of the Nakkeerar Coconut Collecting Farmers Producers Company.

Cyclone Gaja had blown the green cover in the highly fertile areas such as Vadakadu, Karambakudi, Gandharavakottai where maximum tree species including jackfruit, coconut and neem were uprooted taking us several years behind, he further recalled. One year has passed since Gaja struck, but the trail of devastation it left behind is still etched in the minds of the people, says Kamarasu adding that it would take at least another eight years for the affected farmers to come back to the pre-Gaja stage.

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