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Putting in Place a Robust Tech Driven Forest Fire Monitoring for India

Forest fire is one of the threats to forest ecosystems and has adverse effects on ecology, climate, environment, human health and the economy. Recurrent forest fires increase the surface run-off, reduces the forest cover due to death of fire intolerant tree species, destroys animal habitats, and causes prolonged effects on human health such as respiratory and cardiovascular problems and even leads to invasions of invasive species (Hussin, Matakala, and Zagdaa, 2008).

Furthermore, forest fires along with agriculture residue burning contribute to green house gas emissions (Oliva and Chuvieco, 2011; Pathak, 2015). Such adverse effects of forest fires make it imperative to monitor and mitigate.

Forest Fires in Uttarakhand

Forest fire monitoring from space is among the most sought after applications of satellite based remote sensing and is being used for decades. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has come up a long way in space technology and provides various earth resources monitoring services such as forest fire and agriculture residue burning monitoring.

ISRO is now providing the active fire locations i.e. of forest fire and agriculture residue burning through fully automated fire production chains based on near real time satellite data acquisition at the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC).

For this data of 14 satellite passes of Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) of TERRA and AQUA satellite of spatial resolution 1 km and Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument of Suomi National Polar-Orbiting Partnership (SNPP) spacecraft  of resolutions 750 m and 375 m is being used.

This has made ISRO capable of sending active fire alerts within 30 minutes of each pass to the Forest Survey of India (FSI). Fire alerts of forest fires and agriculture residue are web-published through ISRO’s BHUVAN Portal. A dedicated portal for Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has also been developed to give these fire location alerts.

real time forest fire alerts through BHUVAN

Fig: Near real time forest fire alerts through BHUVAN Portal

real time forest fire alerts through BHUVAN

Fig: Forest fire location – 2017 Source: ISRO

Fig: Dedicated portal for MoEFCC for active Agriculture fire alerts, Source: BHUVAN

Parliamentary Committee recommends for a National Policy on Forest Fires

 

An average of 34,924±7,415 forest fires were detected between 2003-2016. Also it has been found that agricultural stubble burning is most practiced in the Indian part of Indo-Gangetic Plains, predominantly in Punjab and Haryana.

Agriculture residue burning in Indo-Gangetic Plains

Fig: Agriculture residue burning in Indo-Gangetic Plains

Source: ISRO

Apart from active fire alerts, ISRO is also providing burnt area assessment of forest fires that includes rapid burnt area assessment during episodic fires and end-of-season burnt area assessment using multispectral satellite data.

Information on forest fire regimes in terms of average fire density, deviation from mean and length of fire period is also being provided by ISRO through BHUVAN portal.

Burnt area assessment of Uttarakhand fires-2017

Fig: Burnt area assessment of Uttarakhand fires-2017 Source: ISRO

This space monitoring and assessment by ISRO has become a magnificent tool for monitoring forest fire and agriculture residue burning that is serving in fire mitigation planning, mapping fire vulnerable areas, modeling fire progression/spread, quantification of emissions and climate change studies.

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