India In a bid to improve its response to forest fires and mitigate its effects, the Maharashtra Forest Department is all set to launch a command and control room that has access to satellite communications. This will allow the department to track forest fires in real time across the state, and initiate immediate action to control it and minimise its effects.
Set up at the State Forest Departments Nagpur headquarters, the control room will also respond to wildlife offenses, and coordinate with other states for crack downs on inter-state poaching gangs and timber fellers.
In case of a forest fire, thermal radiations detected by the satellite will be transmitted on real-time basis to forest guards via SMS from the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC), Hyderabad, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (APCCF- Information Technology and Policy), Pravin Srivastava told DNA.
The video wall in the command and control room will also contain digital maps of the state, all down to the compartment level the basic administrative unit in the forest department. These maps include information on soil strata, water resources, cadastral, roads, wasteland, village and administrative boundaries.
The department will be merging its map data with satellite imagery to track details of the net forest area added or lost, illicit tree felling and encroachment by using this geo-spatial platform. It will also monitor the progress of Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwars ambitious project of 2.81 crore saplings planted across Maharashtra. This is being undertaken with the Maharashtra Remote Sensing Application Centre (MRSAC) and by March, all forest department maps will be hosted on the MRSAC portal.
Srivastava said in case of complaints or untoward incidents, officers manning the command centre can contact the field officer and control the extent of the potential damage. The department will also set up an emergency helpline on 1926 for wildlife related emergencies. The control room will also be connected with premier institutes and offices which are on the NIC network with the forest department and collate field reports for real-time solutions.