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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Myanmar Teak

The botanical name for teak is tectona grandis. The Sanskrit name for it is Saka. The Myanmar people call it kyoon. Sometimes they add the words shwe wa to denote its golden yellowish tinge. Teak is a native of the Indian peninsula, Thailand and Myanmar. It also grows in the Philippine islands, Java and the Malay archipelago. Teak thrives best where the mean annual rainfall is more than 50 inches and temperature which ranges between 75 MF and 81 MF . Although it grows on a variety of soils it likes a dry subsoil where there is perfect drainage. The Teak tree is leafless during the dry season. Generally the leaves fall in January but in moist places the teak tree appears green till March. When the first monsoon rains fall fresh leaves appear .Under favourable conditions teak attains a diameter of 24 inches( girth 72 inches ) at the age of 80.When fully mature it attains a height of 100 to 150 feet.
The Europeans first became acquainted with teak in Malabar, the region which the Arabs call the "pepper coast". It is situated on the southern portion of the Western Ghauts in India. European usage of Myanmar teak appeared round about 1597 when the Portuguese king ordered his viceroy at Goa not to allow the Turks to export teak from Pegu(now Bago).
It is no exaggeration to say that Myanmar teak was thoroughly appreciated by the British. Their interest in it became so much the greater when their own oak forests were depleted as a result of their maritime conflicts with the French. Myanmar teak then came to play a vital part in British shipbuilding. In those days Syriam, Thanlyin and later Rangoon, Yangon were the two British shipbuilding centres in Burma. All British merchant ships which were built at Calcutta at that time used Myanmar teak. These were the ships which provisioned expansionist Albion during her naval tussles with the French.
Many accounts reveal that a proliferation of superior quality teak trees grow only in Myanmar. The same sources disclosed that viable teak forests no longer remain in our neighbourhood. Perhaps the natural teak forests astride the Bago Yoma hump road might be taken as the last foothold of natural teak forests in Myanmar. Some might argue that teak also grows on the eastern slope of Rakhine Yoma, the hilly regions of Mottama and Karmine area.They do. But they are inferior in quality to that found on the Bago Yoma hump.
These numerous accounts maintain that teak was the best wood for building ships. It still is. First it resists sea water and next it does not splinter under gunfire. Splintering wood was the chief cause of casualties in eighteenth century naval warfare. The famous Cunard liner 'Queen Mary ' used no less than 1000 tons of Myanmar teak.To come to the present day, Sadruddin Daya, the Indian businessman of the Dawood chain of shoe stores, used Myanmar teak lavishly on his personal dhow. His boat combines a genteel charm and fragile beauty with the best of modern technology and comfort. Nevertheless, in appearance she may look as though she has sailed out of the Arabian Nights. Named after his daughter Shazma, the boat is businessman Sadruddin Daya's dream come true. The dull brown hull is definitely top quality Myanmar teak. When one steps on to the deck one finds the entire floor covered with Myanmar teak. It was built by the renowned Indian boat builders- Wadia Brothers in the early part of 1 995.
The prime value of teak is its durability. In India, Myanmar and elsewhere beams of teak wood in good preservation are often found in buildings several centuries old. Instances of teak beams of more than a thousand years have been unearthed from time to time. In the old cave temples of Salsette and elsewhere in Western India,pieces of teak probably more than 2000 years old have been found in good condition. Such durable examples were witnessed equally in Baghdad in the 7th century palace of the Persian kings. Teak beams, still undecayed, exist in the walls of the great palace of the Sasanid kings at Seleucia or Ctesiphon, dating from the middle of the 6th century.
White ants eat the sap wood but rarely attack the heart wood of teak. It is not, however, proof against the borings of the toredo. Zeidler in the University Lexicon contended:
Tecka is the name of costly wood which is found in the Kindgom of Martaban in the East Indies, and which never decays. In 1752, Alaungmintaya by royal decree declared teak a royal monopoly and forbade the felling of it. In 1860 the British firm of tF1cGregor Company received the right to extract teak from King Mindon. In 1862 this right was granted to the Bombay Burma Corporation . Other companies followed suit. They were Steel Brothers Ltd, Foucar Company and T.D. Findlay Company, etc.
In Myanmar, teak is used in house building, furniture making, boat building. door and window frames, railway carriages and wagons, wharves and bridges. It is also much valued in the carving industry besides being used for many other purposes. It must be noted that most railway carriages and wagons of the world use teak because it is the only wood which can stand the swing and motion of rail travel. The Encyclopedia Brittanica described the output and export of Myanmar teak in the colonial days as follows: The actual output from Burma shipped from Rangoon and Moulmein far exceeds anything which is produced from any other source, with about 500,000 tons cut annually prior to World War II. In 1938-39, 204.000 cubic tons were exported from Burrna by sea, 1 60,000 cubic tons of the total going to India.
Today in Myanmar the forest area with significant teak resources cover about 6.1 million hectare ( J Smillion acres). The annual potential yield of teak is believed to be somewhere around 0.3 million hoppus tons (0.6 million cubic meters). Myanmar annually exports an average of 110,000 hoppus tons in log form and another 80,000 tons in value added form. Myanmar teak is welcome everywhere. Until now no wood can fully compete with the excellence and fan-.e of Myanmar teak. She is the premium wood, par excellence in the whole world.

Hla Thein
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