I am no forest-wallah, so please do take all that I say with a pinch of salt.
Now that the disclaimer is over with, I can start theorizing.
And that largely sums it up. All the villagers and development workers I have spoken to have informed me that Pine is a ruthless invader, first brought by the Britishers and then propagated by the Forest department. It ignites and burns their land, takes over productive oak forests, covers the soil with an impenetrable cloak of needles, and adds nothing to the local economy whatsoever. The only use they admit to is for firewood, and needles for bedding cattle. It would be hard for them to deny the lopping for firewood, because it is difficult to find a pine tree that has not been pruned till it resembles a mangy paintbrush but they will not admit to any other use. Pine forests are now the battlefield between the Govt and the villages. Google 'chir pine' though, and the first sentence informs you that chir pine (pinus roxburghii) is 'one of the most useful trees in the region'.
I dont know which story is true. Perhaps they both are. One thing though is that pine trees are exploited to within an inch of their lives. In addition to the lopping I mentioned earlier, they are also tapped for resin. Each tree is scarified and fixed with a little pot to collect the aromatic sap.
fortress conservation is a Bad Thing. But there is also something called carrying capacity. And I fear that we have long ago exceeded that.
And leaving conservation-speak aside, the child in me still believes in dryads and living trees. Those wounds must be painful.
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