Karnataka has decided to urge the Central Tobacco Board to extend financial aid to tobacco growers in the state to take up alternative curing methods to put an end to use of fuel wood, which has led to massive deforestation.
Minister for Forest C H Vijayashankar told reporters here that the Board has about Rs 150-crore funds, which it got as penalty from licensed and unlicensed tobacco growers in Karnataka over the years, but remained unspent. He pointed out that India has given an undertaking to the World Health Organisation (WHO) that tobacco cultivation has to be given up by the year 2020.
He said 53,000 licensed growers and 30,000 unlicensed growers in four taluks annually produce 1,700 tonnes of virginia tobacco and use about 85,000 truck loads of firewood to cure it. The Board, which used to provide coal to cure tobacco, has suspended it, the minister said and pointed out that there are alternative methods like use of LPG for this purpose.
He said efforts are on to revive four corporations under the Forest Department — Cashewnut Development Corporation, Karnataka Forest Development Corporation, Forest Industries Development and Cashew Board as these were not doing well.
Vijayashankar said he has asked officials to submit a report in 30 days outlining the measures to be initiated to revive these sick units.