CHENNAI: In the aftermath of Kurangani forest fire in March, which claimed more than 20 lives, State forest department will enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with ISRO’s National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) to get faster fire alerts.
The MoU is likely to be formalised in a few days. The agreement will reduce the time-lag in communication during emergencies such as forest fires. A top forest official told Express that terms and conditions have been finalised and signed by RK Upadhyay, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest and sent to NRSC to complete the agreement.
Currently, NRSC sends information on forest fires plotted on satellite-based maps to Forest Survey of India (FSI), which will decode it and send it to the forest department via e-mail and SMSs. “But, once there is a formal agreement between the forest department and NRSC, the alerts will land directly on forest officials mobile phones within minutes,” the official said.
When Kurangani forest fire in Theni district broke out and several trekkers were charred to death, there was a huge blame game between the forest department and FSI.
Forest officials said the SMS alert from FSI came only at 11:46 PM on March 11. The FSI also sends e-mail alerts. “On Sunday, the attachment did not open. But, many times the attachments sent by FSI do not open. Hence, we depend on SMS alerts as it comes directly to the mobile phones of many officials.” However, the office of DG, Forests and Special Secretary of environment ministry had issued a statement stating that two e-mails, providing the co-ordinates of the forest fires, were sent to the nodal officer of Tamil Nadu Forest Department at 2.29 pm and 3.37 pm on March 11.
Such controversies can be avoided if there is a direct MoU between the department and NRSC. Also, several remote sensing applications are offered, which will help the department in conservation.