In a first, drones to monitor all forests across Maharashtra
A drone is a remote-controlled, unstaffed aerial vehicle (UAV) that can provide a 360-degree view during its flight.mumbai Updated: Apr 28, 2018 23:30 IST
The state government has approved the use of drones for monitoring forest areas across the state, said forest minister Sudhir Mungantiwar, who officially declared the development with forest officers, earlier this week.
He said that no other state has used this technology to monitor forests on such a large scale and this will enhance transparency, credibility of forest governance in the eye of the public.
A drone is a remote-controlled, unstaffed aerial vehicle (UAV) that can provide a 360-degree view during its flight.
HT had reported earlier this month that pilot testing of drones had begun along the Chiplun mangroves of Ratnagiri district to track their health. However, the forest department will now use the technology to monitor all reserved, protected territorial forests, wildlife sanctuaries, national parks, and conservation and community reserves.
Mungantiwar said that the drones will be used to track the health of forests, encroachments, tree-felling, forest fires, poaching, status of water bodies, biodiversity protection, and mangrove conservation.
“Using drones will help our main target policy of increasing forest cover to 33% of the state’s geographical area. The main focus will be to track the 13 crore plantations across Maharashtra planned by the department this year. Subsequently, drones will be hired district-wise to initiate forest monitoring,” he said.
The decision was taken during the state forest officers’ conference in Thane on April 20-21.
“Our command control centre at Van Bhavan in Nagpur will receive images and videos of various forest management activities, and share it across the department. Efforts will be initiated at all those sites that need improvement and restoration work will done much faster now,” said Mungantiwar.
The information and technology cell of the forest department has already begun using drones to check the health of forests at districts such as Yavatmal and Chandrapur, said officials. They said that photographs clicked with the help of drones from both areas will be uploaded on the state forest website within the next 10 days.
Last year, the forest department planted 5.43 crore tree saplings across the state and this year they expect to plant another 13 crore.
“Our first focus will be to monitor the 13 crore tree plantings planned this year, which includes pit digging, planting operation, actual growth of saplings. Once the work is completed, we will compare and make images, clips and videos public, regarding the progressive change of plantations,” said P Srivastava, additional principal chief conservator of forests (APCCF) for information technology and policy, state forest department.
He said that for better governance and based on recent approvals by the minister, drone surveillance will be integrated with management information system (MIS) and geographical information system (GIS) to map the forests in every district.
“This will be done from the command control centre. So far we have been relying on satellite imagery over a long time and there is a considerable time lapse. With drones, we can have real time monitoring of the work we are doing, which will enhance and develop a firmer grip on our efforts,” said Srivastava. “We will be going district wise, hiring the UAVs, and initiate monitoring.”