Inventory Maps: Key building blocks of Bioenergy Economy in Himachal Pradesh

Himachal Pradesh is a high-potential landscape for building a bioenergy economy. This opportunity is due to the abundance of pine needles in areas like Bhatiyat taluka in the Chamba district. Pine needles are highly flammable in nature and are often the cause of forest fires, which take a toll on the forest biodiversity and the livelihoods of forest communities. The operationalization of the Initiative on Forest Economy (IoFE) in Bhatiyat will lead to positive ecological and economic outcomes by creating opportunities to realise the potential of the bioenergy economy in the landscape. Pine needles processed as briquettes are an attractive alternative to coal and other fossil-fuel-based raw materials for hard-to-abate industries that forest communities can provide. One of the major challenges faced by industries in procuring seasonal forest products as raw materials is a lack of information on inventory and, therefore, the possibility of an inconsistent supply of seasonal forest products to the industry. 

The IoFE team is addressing this issue with the assistance of technology. We have begun by assessing high-resolution geospatial data and incorporating data points generated through participation with local communities. Forest inventory mapping for pine needles in Bhatiyat has been initiated to create data points and polygon maps. The village head, along with two villagers who are well-versed in the area, provides inputs on community forest boundaries to create their respective forest boundary maps. The ISB-BIPP team is training local volunteers in collecting ground truth data points and forest inventory that will help generate distribution maps and quantity estimations of pine needles in the landscape. 

The immediate action plan of the IoFE team is (a) to get an accurate inventory of pine needles through the extensive mapping exercise, (b) to fill claims for the recognition of Community Forest Resource rights of Other Traditional Forest Dwellers and Gaddi, the tribal community of Chamba, and (c) to form a women-led and community-owned enterprise that builds on the SHG architecture to facilitate and expedite the community-industry linkage for steady supply of pine needles to industries. This plan should lead to increased income for local communities through mechanical interventions for value addition at the local level. 

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