App to keep a check on forest fires this summer

Last year, a five-day fire raged through the Bandipur Tiger Reserve, leaving more than 15,400 acres of forests burnt. This has prompted the Karnataka Forest Department to come up with a slew of measures this year to help prevent and contain forest fires. Along with developing an SOP, the Forest Department has also come up with an app to keep forest fires in check.

Punati Sridhar, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF), told The Hindu that recently, the Forest Department operationalised its own fire alert app, which has been developed along with the Karnataka State Remote Sensing Application Centre (KSRSAC). The biggest advantage is the time saved between the detection of fire and the alert received.

The new app is said to be an improvisation over the Forest Survey of India (FSI) fire alert. The FSI alert system, which started in 2004, is based on inputs from two collaborative arrangements — NASA-ISRO and ISRO-FSI. The fire hotspots detected by sensors are received at the Shadnagar Earth Station of the National Remote Sensing Centre. The hotspots are then transmitted to the FSI electronically, which processes them, generates alerts, and disseminates them to registered end users.

“The FSI alert takes around four hours between detection and alert. Our app can save about 30 minutes to 90 minutes as we get alerts between 2.5 hours and three hours of detection as it is from KSRSAC to us. It can clearly indicate whether the fire is in the forest area. If it is, it is indicated in green. If the fire is within 500 metres of forest area, it is indicated in orange. In critical areas or if a fire is not doused and continues, it is shown as critical,” Mr. Sridhar explained.

The app can also indicate the temperature, humidity, wind speed, and wind direction in the fire area, which, officials said, will help them know how to approach the fire and from which direction.

Officials said the app will keep a record of frequent fires, which will help the department deploy people in such areas. Other than this, the app is also capable of reflecting changes in vegetation in forest areas and encroachments.

“We have also issued an SOP in the beginning of this year to deal with forest fires. Procedures prescribed to be followed include having better rapport with people, creating awareness through departments and volunteers, etc. The fire lines have been digitised and from February 15, all watches are in place in strategically-placed areas,” said Mr. Sridhar.

But the recent rains, especially in Bandipur and Nagarahole national parks, have helped tide over the peak fire season, he said. “Luckily, it rained in many areas. The peak fire season is over. We are fully prepared for the summer,” he said.

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Printable version | Aug 8, 2020 3:04:43 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/app-to-keep-a-check-on-forest-fires-this-summer/article31042847.ece

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