Blamed for forest fires, pine needles to generate power

Blamed for forest fires, pine needles to generate power

06 March 2017

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India —  The Uttarakhand Renewable Energy Development Agency (UREDA) is framing guidelines to utilise pine needles, which often trigger forest fires during the summer season.

The agency, entrusted with the job of utilising pine needles following the 2016 forest fires in Uttarakhand, has prepared a plan to use the pine needles for generating power. The draft plan is pending with the state government, the agency officials said.

In 2016, forests in over 4,500 hectare were gutted due to wildfires in Uttarakhand. Following this, the government has roped in the energy agency to utilise pine needles. “We have made a comprehensive draft of the guidelines with what could possibly be done with pine needles starting from collection till manufacturing energy,” Amarjeet Singh, deputy chief project officer of UREDA, told Hindustan Times.

UREDA principally looks after renewable energy programmes including generation of power from renewable energy sources.

According to the plan, the agency will facilitate manufacturing of biomass through pine needles for power generation. For this, micro and macro industries will be promoted that would also involve participation of Van Panchayats. The Van Panchayats will be engaged in collection of needles from forests.

The government has already dropped transit fee levied on businessmen involved in the collection of dry leaves from the forests. The decision was taken after a few companies involved in the business of making briquettes closed their shops after a few years of trial, as they found the cost of transportation and transit fee unviable.

Rajinder Kumar Mahajan, head of forest force and principal chief conservator of forest (PCCF) said, “The guidelines are still with the government. Once they get approval from the cabinet, I am sure people will come forward to utilise the leaves.”

The wildfires typically start from February 15 and conclude on June 15. Already, forests in 16.65 hectare have been gutted since February 15 this year, causing an estimated loss of ₹29,000. Pine trees are in 18% (or 4,363 sqkm) area of the total 24,240 sqkm reserve forests in Uttarakhand.

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