Declining forest resources may hit wooden boat building craft workers

May 14, 2014 – BR

ANWAR KHAN

Promotion of forests highlighted
Promotion of forests highlighted

The wooden boat makers have expressed the fear that with the fast declining forest resources, the country’s boat building sector may also collapse. Talking to Business Recorder here on Tuesday, the boat builders, locally called ‘wada’, said that the ancient art of carving out the wooden boats was going to vanish with the declining forest resources.

“Once the wood supply comes to a halt, the boat building industry will fall suddenly,” they said, adding that the government was required to take urgent steps to arrest deforestation as well as to meet the local demand. Muhammad Mosa, 53, said it was unlikely that his children would follow the art he inherited from his forefathers, as investment in wooden boats was scaling down. However, he said that traditionally his children had to succeed him and take over the business.

“For the last 25 years, I have been associated with the making of traditional wooden cargo and fishing vessels and hopefully my children will do it as well,” he said, adding that it was a tedious job, as it took months for a wada to compete a wooden boat. He expressed concerns over the rapid decline in wood supply to Karachi’s boat building yards, saying that “after 15 years we have to seek alternative means, therefore, fibre is a good option to replace wood.”

The veteran artisan believed that the country’s forest resources were declining faster as compared to its plantation, largely due to unabated logging. “If the logging continued at the same pace, the availability of wood for boat making will become scarce and costlier,” said Mosa. He said that the ancient art of making boats was also facing threats from a number of other factors including lack of power supply to the boat building yard, lack of space and facilities for artisans besides poor law and order.

“There are big problems like unavailability of electricity and water at the boat building yard, increasing incidents of crime, extortion and lack of infrastructure,” he pointed out, saying that the yard was a sole producer of such kind of boats for Iran, Iraq, Dubai and Yemen. “Fishermen from Iran, Iraq, Yemen and Dubai place orders with us since they do not have such skilful artists in their respective countries,” he said.

A boat owner, Ali told Business Recorder that a vessel after completion took one day to be plunged into the sea. “An investment of at least Rs 4 million is required to build a 42-foot wooden boat that can keep voyaging for 20 days without mooring,” he said. Muhammad Mosa said that the boat was made of only wood and no steel work was associated with its building. “However, propeller and engine are external parts that are of course of steel and iron,” he said. Asif, 34, said a propeller cost about Rs 0.3 million. “The size of a propeller depends on the horse power of an engine that is installed in a vessel,” he added.

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