Teak plantations, Connolly and Maniram – the unsung hero

Ravindra Nath Saxena

H.V. Conolly, the Collector of British Malabar, had raised a teak plantation near Nilambur town, in the district of Malappuram in the 19th Century. The Nilambur Teak Plantation, which attracts tourists in hordes from all over the world, is named after Connolly, who has been immortalized in the local folklore. In sharp contrast, we have Maniram, a local Forest Guard, who had raised the first teak plantation on similar lines in Central India within the same time-frame goes unsung.

Conolly Teak Plantation – Nilambur

It is believed that H.V. Conolly, the then Collector of British Malabar had raised a Teak plantation in an area under his control around 1878. It baffled me – why the Collector had taken the initiative of raising this plantation in 1878. On inquiry, it was found that there was great synergy between the Revenue and Forest Departments when it came working under the Indian Forest Act, 1878. In those days, the Collectors/Deputy Commissioners were especially directed to maximise income from forest resources in order to boost “revenue” for British India. Hence the Provincial Governments and Collectors brought more and more forest areas under Government control and scientific forestry management. But this also generated plenty of resentment in Central India, particularly in terms of the Sal forests. So these statutory provisions were diluted under Indian Forest Act, 1927. Even the provisions of implementation of “working plan” was removed from the Act. The subject of “forests” was transferred to “provincial list” from the “federal list” under the Government of India Act, 1935. It was a big retrogressive decision about “forest management” in India.


Sal (Shorea robusta, Family Dipterocarpaceae) is found in 22 States of the 28 States of Union of India. The major river system of Himalayan foothills, Central and East India originate in Sal forests, and is vital for the “ecological stability” of the country.

Photograph of Maniram plantation in Chattisgarh, taken in 1988. The plantation was in excellent condition and it seems that thinnings, CBOs were carried-out properly.

The Unsung Hero

The late Maniram, Forest Guard, had raised, one of the first Teak plantations (3.5 Acres) in 1891 in Bar Forest Village, Barnawapara Wildlife Sanctuary, Chattisgarh. I had prepared the “Wildlife Management Plan” of this sanctuary and inquired about Maniram and gathered that he was not rewarded for his great efforts. Some people believe that he was reprimanded on some count but, according to information available with me, there is no truth in it.

Sal Timber Depot, Keskal, Chattisgarh. Photo taken in 1982.

Click for Presentation on no-regeneration in Sal forests (seed viability is very low), Dry Rot formation, solidification of forest floor, moisture stress, infestation of invasive species, fragmentation & effect of Forest Rights Act, 2006; prevalence of Phoenix sylvestris, impact of Sal Borer, effect of underground coal mining on Sal crop in Central India.

The author, Ravindra Nath Saxena, is former PCCF, Madhya Pradesh.

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