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September 19, 2018

Curbing the felling of toddy-palm trees in Upper Myanmar

  • By Zwe Htet Shin

  • Scattered toddy-palm trees or rows of Palmyra- palm trees represent a symbol of beauty for serenity of rural life and also fine arts for poets; the local populace of rural areas preserves traditional values on those tall and graceful trees. The trees are widely cultivated in Upper Myanmar and their fruits, fronds, branches, stems and roots are economically useful.
    Toddy-palm trees, branches and fronds are seen growing green in a far-off country and the farmers are toiling in the fields of onions and garlic. They are eating lunch together in comradely association among the fields and they happen to be in love with one another, creating a more than happy occasion. As a proud sign of Upper Myanmar, toddy-palm trees are grown gracefully in groups or in rows that can be seen from far-away places.
    Nowadays wooden planks of expensive kinds are widely substituted with those from mature toddy-palm trees in buildings and shops in rural and urban areas. Business of toddy planks is brisk as they are widely used in furniture as finished products. Toddy wooden planks unless soaked in water are more durable than other hard wood and will last for a long time.” A grandchild is said to live long in a house of toddy palm wood built by his grandfather” said a 60- year-old carpenter from Myinkin village.

Using as a substitute for wood and bamboo
Toddy-palm wood is more and more used in the restaurants , tea shops and hotels and also used in village houses as posts, beams and bars in substituting for other hard wood and bamboo by cutting and felling of even 70-year-old palm trees. As hard wood becomes more and more expensive, palm wood is naturally substituted in huts, houses and buildings, resulting in high prices of palm trees and wood. Palm wood with a length of 16-feet plank with 5’x 2’ costs K. 7000, putting the whole tree at a cost of K. 30,000. Costs for services of felling a palm tree together with making four 4’x 2’ planks and four 5’x 2’ planks will charge as much as K. 40,000. Five house posts and seven 4’x 2’ planks are obtained from felling a toddy tree; as many as five trees will have to be cut off to build a house with 3 or 4 posts in front. In addition, thick forests of toddy palm trees are found near several villages in Magway township, service charges of felling a toddy tree once cost at K. 1500, but now at the selling price of K. 35,000.
Average height of palm trees is 60-80 feet with a lifespan of 150-200 years. Toddy palm climbers have become fewer and fewer, some sources said. In rural areas near Magway Township, the tree stumps are used to make stools and the trunks for building bridges and houses. Furthermore, toddy fronds are utilized for roofing and fencing and branches are used for making chairs, said U Kyi Khaing from Thedaw village.
Businessmen of Micro Small and Medium Enterprises from Rakhine and Chin states, in cooperation with those from Magway Region held an exhibition on the Street between Bogyoke Statute Park and Independence Park for three days displaying their local products respectively. A team from Pakokku Industrial Zone showed slabs of palm parquet which are made up of small pieces of toddy palm trees.
The members of Ayeyawady and Sagaing regions and Shan State observed the exhibition; they wanted to continue their exhibitions in their own regions. The exhibitions are meant to promote economic developments as well as brethren friendship among our nationalities.
So, Micro Small and Medium Enterprises should be systematically assisted by the government for social and economic developments in their Regions and States, continued Magway Region Chief Minister Dr. Aung Moe Nyo.
Various kinds of local products from Magway Region such as sesame, groundnut and oil as well as furniture made from toddy trees, equipment of innovations from Magway Institute of Technology and local produce and traditional and cultural products from Chin State and fishery products of dried prawn and fish and national costumes from Rakhine were proudly displayed in their respective booths. Businessmen of Medium Enterprises showed local food, various kinds of juice, cosmetics and consumer goods.
Production Manager U San Win of Sein Soe San Co. Ltd said they went through timber production for 20 years. Now they found a lot of natural resources in Upper Myanmar especially toddy trees.” We don’t want to sell raw materials abroad but as finished goods. If foreigners don’t like our end products, we could use them for local markets” he continued.
Seasoned parquet made from Palmyra trees
Furniture such as big and small settees and revolving chairs is made of seasoned parquet of toddy trees. Small furniture such as ashtrays, vases with long and short necks, wine cups ,arms bowls, food containers, chairs of various types, windows and beds is being made; the smallest article could cost K. 3500 and a pair of quality settees could charge as much as K. 9.4 million.

Maintenance of toddy-palm trees
In an age of modernization, the toddy-palm trees are used in restaurants and tea shops to attract consumers to spend pleasant days in country cottages. While on study tours in Mandalay, Sagaing and Magway regions in Upper Myanmar, the use of toddy-palm trees, branches and fronds is vividly seen in building huts, restaurants and houses all along the roadsides. Wide use of the palm trees in the rural areas is to some extent advantageous for those who could not afford to use expensive wood. But curbing the felling of these tall trees is absolutely necessary to stop the deforestation of the palm trees in Upper Myanmar in order to maintain the ecological balance of the whole area.

(Translated by Arakan Sein)

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