The Forest Survey of India (FSI) has "completely revamped" the forest fire alerts system across the country, bringing in the 'Forest Fire Alerts System Version 2.0', making the entire process automated, including night-time alerts.
FSI Director General Saibal Dasgupta said automation of the whole process, including night-time fire alerts which was effected by the FSI, had led to a significant reduction in the time taken for data processing and sending alerts.
"The FSI is working on three aspects of forest fire - Near Real Time (NRT) Forest Fire alerts, Forest Fire Pre-warning alerts and Burnt scar studies," Dasgupta told PTI in an interview here, in the backdrop of the recent Kurangani forest fires in Tamil Nadu.
The Dehradun-based FSI had sent two e-mails, he said, providing the co-ordinates of the forest fires, to the nodal officer of Tamil Nadu Forest Department after receiving information from the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC), Hyderabad.
"The FSI, with years of experience and with a vast repository of fire-related data, has developed indigenous 'Pre-Warning Alert System'," deputy director FSI, E Vikram, said.
With the India Meteorological Department forecasting a searing hot summer this year, and average mean temperatures expected to remain more than a degree above normal, possibilities of forest fire will increase. With anti-cyclonic winds fuelling the flames, the situation may become difficult.
He said under favourable weather conditions, fires can spread quickly and become uncontrolable leading to loss of lives and property.
The season of the year when the weather conditions favour forest fires is called the 'fire season' and it coincides with the summer months in most parts of the country, except for the pastures in the high Himalayas which burn during the dry winter season.
Monsoon rains invariably mark the end of the fire season, he said.
FSI DG Dasgupta, who also holds the post of Additional DG of Forest in the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change, said that "uncontrolled fires" is one of the major causes of degradation of forests.
Quoting a latest official report, he said forest fires are often caused intentionally by communities to promote grass growth, clear areas for shifting cultivation, clear forest floor for collection of non-timber forest products, and sometimes due to arson especially for hunting or encroaching up on forest land.
"Unintentional fires from cigarette/bidi butts sometimes cause havoc if not noticed at an early state," he said.
Attributes such as Reserved Forests/Protected Forests can also be added to these fire alerts to enable field staff to identify the fire location accurately, he said.
He explained pre-warning alerts to state forest departments are based on parameters like Forest Cover, Forest Type, Climatic Variables (temperature, relative humidity and rainfall) and the recent fire incidences over the area.
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