Preparing for the upcoming winters, residents of Kullu-Manali have picked up axes and started assaulting jungles to collect firewood. Dozens of trees are being killed illegally every day.
As the winters are near, felling of trees in the district has picked up pace. Though permission has been granted to local residents to collect dry wood from certain jungles by forest department, but there are insufficient dead trees in the jungles. This is good opportunity for many people to cut green trees. Deforestation is more near villages in high altitude areas.
Himachal forest corporation is selling firewood in its four depots in Kullu. A ration card holder family can purchase maximum of 2 quintal wood at once, which according to people is not sufficient for them. They also claim of shortage of firewood in depots. Some resident reported that firewood collected from the jungles of Kullu was being exported to Lahaul on priority where there has always been shortage of firewood due to very few jungles cover. And resident are forced to go for illegal tree cutting.
Because of uncertainty of power supply during snowfall, tandoor (fire place) is the only reliable medium of heat. People are engaged in collecting wood for tandoor from all possible sources. A resident of Goshal village Rakesh Thakur said, “We cannot spend harsh winters depending on electric heaters. Bringing only two quintal of wood from depot situated at distant area is not a wise decision. It is our compulsion to arrange at least 30-40 quintal firewood from any sources to survive in sub zero temperatures.”
Mine Ram Thakur, resident of far flung village Shangchar in Kullu said bringing wood from government depots is not possible for them and constrainedly they are fully dependent of jungles. “We live amid jungles. Our village sometime receives snowfall more than 5 feet. Our tandoors keep firing 24X7 throughout the winters. We are not in position to purchase this amount of wood,” he said.
According to forest corporation divisional manager Ajeet Thakur, demand of firewood is very less in Kullu-Manali, and a major part of wood is transported to Lahaul every year. “35,000 quintal of firewood was transported to Lahaul in 2010 and this year we are expecting this quantity to be limited to 20,000 quintal. While, Kullu in 2010 had consumed only 8,000 quintal of firewood. There is no shortage of wood in any depot of Kullu,” he told Discover Kullu Manali.
Providing relief to thousands of families, forest corporation has not increased prices of firewood this year. A quintal of conifer family and raw wood is being sold for Rs 340 and wide leaves solid woods for Rs 410. Commercially the price is Rs 694 and Rs 868 respectively.
Manali depot in-charge, Prem Lal said firewood is in great demand these days. “As the temperature is dipping, people are storing up the wood earlier than previous years. Number of purchasers is increasing every day,” he said.