Online edition of India's National Newspaper
Monday, Nov 13, 2006

Metro Plus Chennai

Green crucible
Dehradun's Forest Research Institute is
 more than just a pretty face

PIONEERING WORK The Forest Research Institute

There is an apocryphal story that if you took out
all the bricks in this building, and laid them
end-to-end, you could circle the earth. It's on
every tourist's itinerary, a trip to the sprawling,
 red-bricked institute, built more on the lines
 of a palace than a government building. Except,
 most of the people go to gawp at the beautiful
edifice with little or no idea of its
importance in the scheme of things conservationist.

The faux Colonial palace, with its pillars, arches,
vaulted ceilings, and with the Himalayan ranges as
 backdrop, is actually the Forest Research Institute
 of India, established in 1906, set in 450 verdant
 acres. The evolution of the institute has gone hand
 in hand with the evolution of the science of forestry
 in India as well as pretty much all of South East Asia.

The buildings have well-equipped laboratories, a
library, herbarium, arboreta, a printing press
and experimental field areas for conducting forestry
 research. The herbarium with 330,000 authenticated
 plant specimen is arguably the best in the East.
The FRI's xylarium has a collection of over 18,000
wood specimens from India and abroad, making
 the institute quite the last word on reference for
wood identification. There is also an interesting
Botanical Museum that proves to be a perennial
 hit with tourists.

Research achievements
The Institute works quietly, efficiently, and is modest
 about its many laurels. It pioneered the process
of pulping bamboos for papermaking. Its research
achievements in the field of silviculture are the touchstone
 of forestry and scientific forest management in India.
Valuable scientific knowledge has been generated
 and documented on the silviculture of over 550
 species of trees; classification of forest types
 of India, Pakistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh and
Myanmar; silviculture systems for tropical forests;
 the successful introduction of exotics, eucalyptus,
 poplars, tropical pines, acacias and leucaena
leucocephala; seed technology of over 80
important forest tree seeds, and the management
of bamboos. Over 2000 sample plots, established
over the years, have provided data for compiling
yield and volume tables for over 120 tree species,
 apart from further greening this lovely spot.

Preservation plots established by the FRI throughout
 the country have helped forest officers and
conservationists gain a better understanding of
 forest ecology, biodiversity and the environment.

The Forest Research Institute Deemed University
conducts Ph.D programmes for post-graduate
students, post-graduate diploma courses in Pulp
 and Paper Technology, Wood Technology and
Plantation Technology, and also networks with
other training institutions in the field of forestry
education. If it's a matter of forests, plants, trees,
well, the Institute has it covered.

Now, even if every second casual visitor to the
Forest Research Institute — and in season,
droves visit — absorbed something of the
kind of work done in the institute, if every
child who ran through the corridors was
told in simple terms just what a treasure
trove of relevant information it holds, what
 a boon it would be for our forests and of
 course, for ourselves.



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