The Himachal Pradesh State Forest Development Corporation (HPSFDC) has been minting money by selling the extracted resin from chir pine trees over the past 15 years. So far the HPSFDC has earned Rs 109.65 crore, including the highest revenue of Rs 10.89 crore in 2010, followed by Rs 10.83 crore in 2014.

However, over the past few years, the revenue has been decreasing. Since 2015, the revenue generated through selling resin has been recorded between Rs 9.42 crore and Rs 6.62 crore.

The chir pine trees are occasionally blamed for forest fires in the hill state during summers. While the bark of the tree does not catch fire easily as it has a very high ignition temperature, the needles and resin-filled cones of the chir pines do. Forest fires mostly occur during the pre-monsoon summer season when there is a lot of moisture in the area due to snowmelt water.

Of the total 37,948 sq km of forest area in the state, 2,800 sq km is under pine cover. In the past three months, 2,362 forest fire incidents were reported in the state — almost three times higher than the last year which saw 631 fire incidents. This year, the maximum forest fires of 533 were reported from Dharamshala in Kangra district alone, followed by 186 such incidents in Shimla.

To tackle the problem, the Himachal Forest Department hands over resin blaze (a cut mark through which resin is collected from chir pine trees) to the HPSFDC, which was formed in 1974. In return, the forest department charges a royalty for each resin blaze. . While the current royalty rate for a single blaze is Rs 45, last year, the department collected 14,72,021 such blazes.

Festive offer

“Resin extracted from the pine tree is widely used for making adhesives, coatings or other construction materials. There are two resin and turpentine factories in the state — Nahan in Sirmaur district and Bilaspur district. The installed capacity of the two factories is 1.11 lakh quintals per annum. Quintals of collected resin transported to these factories, it was refined and further sold in the market. HPSFDC is a company controlled by the state government. For the extracted resin from pine trees on the forest land, HPSFDC has also paid a royalty of Rs 166.81 crore to the state forest department between 2015 and 2024. Indeed, pine trees catch fire swiftly,” Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCR), Himachal Pradesh, Rajiv Kumar, said.

Sources said, “Before HPSFDC in 1974, the resin was extracted by private contractors who would exploit forests unnecessarily.”

However, concerns have been raised over the declining revenue over the years. The last earned revenue in a double-digit was Rs 10.83 crore in 2014. From 2014 to 2023, the revenue decreased to a single digit. In 2023, Rs 6.62 crore was earned through 14.72 lakh blazes.

A senior forest officer said, “There are many reasons behind this. The foremost reason is the increasing number of forest fire incidents. Hundreds of pine trees burned in one fire mishap. Meanwhile, diversion of forest land for developmental activities, including the construction of roads, highways, government buildings, etc., is also a reason. The process of afforestation takes a long time.”

Three species of pine trees — Pinus roxburghii, Pinus wallichiana and Pinus gerardiana — are abundant in the state. There are set standards for the sizes of blazes made on pine trees based on the size of trees. Pine trees grow in almost all districts of the state, except for Kinnaur and Lahaul & Spiti. Pine trees grow at an altitude of 450m to 2600m. Above 2600m, other species like Devdar, Rakhal, juniper, etc., grow.

On June 24, the state government led by Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu told the 16th Finance Commission that the state has a forest worth Rs 321 lakh crore and if the central government allows, the state can earn Rs 4,026 crore annually through these forests using scientific methods.

Rs 63.53L earned through bamboo bundles

The state earned Rs 63.53 lakh through the sale of bamboo bundles from the forest between 2015 and 2022. The Himachal Pradesh Forest Development Corporation (HPFDC) has extracted 1,49,940 bamboo bundles from the forest. In 2015-16, 26,297 bamboo bundles were extracted, while 13,265 in 2021-22.