Taxing times for Coorg

Taxing times for Coorg a new timber tax has hit the coffee growers of Karnataka's Coorg district. Faced with a sharp drop in coffee prices since 1999, they depend on timber felling, mainly of the silver oak tree. It is now feared that the new tax would make them resort to increased felling, harming the region's sensitive ecology.

The state government issued a notification on May 10, 2004, amending rule 145 of the Karnataka Forest Rules (1969), for levying a transport fee at Rs 200 per cubic metre of timber being transported from plantations and other areas. This works out to about Rs 2,000 per lorry load. But timber merchants complain they stand to lose Rs 2,500 per lorry load, as they have already bought the trees. They also admit they would transfer the burden on coffee growers. "We have to get the money from somewhere,' argues A Karyappa, vice president, Kodagu Timber Merchant and Land Owners Association.

On their part, the growers, who for the past year have been demanding the right to fell more trees on their lands (see