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| Last Updated:15/10/2019

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Rising temperatures spark forest fires


With temperatures increasing beyond 35°C in the hills, the pine tree bio-waste spread in the Dharamsala forest range is becoming a major source of forest fires. A fire broke out in forest areas around Dharamsala and damaged a transformer and power lines. Since the fire broke out near populated areas, it was controlled by the Fire Department of Dharamsala.

The situation is likely to be different in case forest fires break out in remote forest areas. Forest wealth worth crores has been damaged due to forest fires in the Dharamsala region.

The Forest Department maintained that plantations worth Rs 27 crore were destroyed in forest fires last year. The loss to wildlife could not be calculated.

Forests in the Dharamsala region are home to rare species such as white-backed vulture that are registered as endangered species under the red data book of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The basic cause of such fires is pine forests which came up in the middle Himalayan region in the last few decades. The Forest Department opted for pine trees due to their high survival rate.

Pine trees increased the forest cover but brought problems associated with introducing a foreign tree species in the area as well.

Pine trees suppress the growth of local plant species including grass undergrowth. The deposition of pine trees on the ground does not allow the growth of any other species.

Dried up pine tree needles have high combustion value. Those easily catch fire that spreads across the entire area in which pine tree needles are lying. Experts say the only solution is to slowly replace pine trees with indigenous varieties. This is a long-term solution as it may take decades.

As a short-term measure, the Forest Department can outsource the work of removing the bio-waste of pine trees from forest grounds. The byproduct of pine tree needlese can be used as bio-fuel.

The state government should encourage the local industry that uses pine waste as bio-fuel or force cement companies to use pine-based bio-fuel at kilns.

This can generate employment for local residents as they will be encouraged to collect pine-based bio fuel from forest areas.


The Tribune (27-05-2013)