Shimla: In response to an alarming rise in forest fire incidents, the Himachal Pradesh government has launched a thorough investigation into the effectiveness of industries utilizing pine leaves. This initiative aims to address the critical issue of forest fires, which have reached record levels this season.

The Forest Department, under the directive of the state government, has formed a committee to investigate these industries. This committee includes Divisional Forest Officers (DFO) from Dehra, Una, and Hamirpur. These regions house the majority of the industries established under the Pine Needle Policy.

A few years ago, the Himachal Pradesh government introduced the Pine Needle Policy, providing subsidies of up to Rs 50 lakh to entrepreneurs to set up industries based on pine leaves. The primary objective of this policy was to utilize the dry leaves of pine trees, which pose a significant fire hazard in forests, as fuel. These dry pine needles, when left unchecked, can act as gunpowder during forest fires.

The policy aimed to mitigate this risk by encouraging the collection and use of pine needles to produce fire briquettes (fuel bricks). Despite these efforts, the current fire season has seen an unprecedented 2,271 incidents of forest fires, the highest in the last four to five years. This surge has raised questions about the effectiveness of the policy and the industries it supports.

The newly formed committee will assess the ground-level activities of these industries. Their investigation will focus on the amount of pine leaves collected and processed, and the extent to which fire briquettes have been produced and utilized. The goal is to determine if the subsidies and efforts have effectively reduced the incidence of forest fires.

The committee’s findings will be crucial in determining the future of the Pine Needle Policy and the associated industries. Depending on the results, the government may need to revise the policy or introduce new measures to better protect Himachal Pradesh’s forests from the devastating impact of fires.