In the summer of 2016, helicopters fitted with water tanks poured gallons to control raging forest fires in Uttarakhand that had claimed five lives and destroyed 2,200 hectares of jungle.
Last month, the forest fires issue reached the Supreme Court as infernos again created havoc in the hill state.
Scientists say the main culprit behind this spread every year in the state is pine needles, which quickly catch fire. By a government estimate, 16.4 per cent or 399,329 hectares of the total forest area is covered by chir pine forest.
Now, the state government has started an effort to produce electricity from the pine needles, locally known as pirul, to reduce their spread in the jungle. It has issued Letters of Award to 21 companies for this purpose, under a policy announced last year. These companies would produce a total of 675 Kw.
So far, 12 agreements have been signed between these companies and the government. Uttarakhand Power Corporation, the state power distribution company, would sign separate power purchase agreements with these companies, to buy electricity at Rs 7.54 a unit, said Chander Singh Bisht.
His company, Bhagirathi Chidh Vidyut Producer, is setting up the biggest pirul plant, at Dunda block of Uttarkashi district with a capacity of 125 Kv.
Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat is taking keen interest in the scheme, noting the potential for both revenue and jobs — the hills are badly hit by the scourge of widespread migration outwards.