Forest fires are being controlled in Tamil Nadu with the help of satellite data, forest officials say. Thanks to the availability of data on forest fires, it can be downloaded and overlaid with the administrative map of the forests to point the exact location in which it occurs.

Talking about the facility, a senior forest official said active fire spots were detected using Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectro-Radiometer Sensors (MODIS) and the data is available on a daily basis for the entire world on the ‘Fire Information for Resource Management Systems’ website.

The MODIS fire data provided geo coordinates such as latitude, longitude, date, time of overpass of satellite and satellite name besides the fire spots. The Forest Department’s Geomatics centre, functioning at Panagal Buildings, Saidapet, downloads the near real-time data, which is then overlaid with the Forest administrative map to identify the reserved forest, beat, range and division. Once the beat is identified, the information is immediately communicated to the district forest officer concerned or the Conservator of Forests for necessary action on the field.

The data, along with statistics, is then sent to all forest divisions in the State for better planning and management. At present the Geomatics Centre has 10 years of spatial information on forest fire burnt areas in the State, the officer said.

An important advantage in the MODIS data collection is that information about forest fire is immediately known to those working in the Geomatics Centre than the field staff in the districts. Detailed information about fire taking place in a beat falling under a particular range, the district and the division under which the incident took place is passed on to the district forest officers. With the information, taking action has become easier, said a district forest officer.

Another official said earlier the Centre used to follow only major fires occurring in two hectares and above. With the advancement in technology now, even fires occurring within two hectares are also identified and doused, he added.

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