INDIA – To combat the forest fires caused due to pine needles, the Uttarakhand forest department is preparing a comprehensive policy that will include collection, marketing of pine needles involving local residents, an official said on Wednesday.
Forest fires in the hill state have damaged 133-hectare of forest cover since February 15 this year, incurring an estimated revenue loss of ₹ 2.22 lakh.
Forest department records state that 264 fire incidents were reported across the state during the period.
“We need a mechanism to ensure clearance of pine needles from the ground. For this, the department is making a policy with the help of which we will be able to encourage private stakeholders and will also connect it with the livelihood opportunities of locals,” said Jai Raj, head of forest force and state principal chief conservator of forest.
The department has invited people who want lift pine needles for different uses, he said.
The civil soyam forest–which is largely in control of the revenue department–reported a loss of 63 hectare in 189 forest fires, while the 70 hectare of reserve forest was damaged in 75 incidents.
The main reason for surface fires in the Himalayan region is pine needles. The state forest department lacks a policy or a system that can be used to clear pine needles from the forest. Some businessmen have tried to make briquettes as a source of energy from the needles, but the initiatives have not helped the state in getting rid of the combustible pine needles, officials said.
“There’s a company that is lifting the needless and using it for making mosquito repellent coils. But, these are negligible efforts towards clearing pine needles. We want people to come here and make use of the pine needles,” Raj said.
Meanwhile, to promote plantation, the Uttarakhand forest department has planned to adopt the ideas from the Himalayan Environmental Studies and Conservation Organisation (HESCO).
Under the plan, the ashes of the deceased family member will be used as manure for plants so that the family members can feel an emotion connect with the plant.
This will help in ensuring the growth and survival rate of the plants.
The HESCO has been experimenting with the idea at the Asharodhi range of Dehradun forest in a joint project with the state forest department.
“We are identifying areas where this idea could be formulated,” said Jai Raj, head of forest force.
The 44-hectare area has been earmarked for the project, where 1,000 water holes are being nurtured to restore the soil moisture due to which forest fire incidents have reduced, he said.