India — PUNE: The state may soon have a Fire Alert Messaging System (FAMS) to protect fire-sensitive forest locations. The system will make use of satellite to send out SMS alerts on mobile phones of concerned officials so that they act in time to prevent further damage.
Forest cover destroyed due to fire in Pune division has doubled from 204 hectares in 2008-09 to 408 hectares in 2011-12. Ninety-five incidents were reported in 2010-11 that razed about 810 hectares of forest land.
In another initiative, the Vidarbha region has been given 11 mobile fire fighting units. Seventy-seven more will be set up across the state in the coming years.
The state forest department is in talks with the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department to know how they developed and successfully implemented the system. R R Sahay, additional principal chief conservator of forests (IT and Policy), Nagpur, said, “FAMS uses a combination of Geographical Information System (GIS) and Management Information System (MIS) technologies. It uses processed remote sensing data of active fire locations and sends alerts to officials concerned on field through SMSs on registered mobile phones.”
The system also maintains a database of locations which can be used to identify fire sensitive zones and plan fire control operations.
Additional principal chief conservator of forest (protection), Nagpur, Krishna Mohan, said that each mobile fire fighting unit includes a van, a team of 12 fire fighters and additional tools. “This financial year, we have to introduce 33 such units across the state while 22 more will be introduced next year. A total of 88 such units will be rolled out in four years. The advantage of these units is that each will have a concentrated team of 12 persons to fight fire.”
Deputy conservator of forest Rajendra Kadam said that about 60% of forest fires in Pune division occur in Haveli, Vadgaon Maval and Mulshi (Paud) talukas. The Pune forest division also consists of Indapur, Baramati and Daund talukas. In 2008-09, the Pune forest division reported 34 fire incidents, which increased to 43 in 2009-10. Total 360.5 hectare of forest cover was destroyed. 56 incidents were reported in 2011-12, said Kadam.
“In a majority of cases, the fire is induced by humans, either caused by negligence or may even be intentional. However, most of the offenders remain unknown so they cannot be booked. Ground flora such as leaves and leaf litter decompose in due course of time and add to the nutrients in the soil. However, forest fires burn this matter, thus eating up soil’s nutrients. Forest fires also stunt the growth of trees,” said Kadam.
Besides, such fires are known to envelope anything that comes in their way, including reptiles and bird nests.