HYDERABAD: Efforts to conserve forests across the country is likely to get a major boost, thanks to Hyderabad-based National Remote Sensing Centre(NRSC), an arm of Indian Space Research Organization(ISRO). The centre has developed a new system that can monitor changes in forest cover over area as small as one hectare of land. The new system was made possible with the fusion of Optical Remote Sensing, Geographic Information System, Artificial Intelligence and Automation.
Apart from this, the new system will help NSRC generate monthly reports on forest cover and provide specific latitude and longitude of location where changes in green cover are observed. Telangana forest department will be the first in the country to benefit from this new system. NRSC has already tested the system and will soon be conducting pilot study in Telangana.
P Raghuveer, the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests(IT) with State forest department told Express that as part of the pilot project NSRC will monitor forest cover changes in Kothagudem district, one of the worst affect parts of the State. “We have entered into an MoU with the NRSC. The processing of satellite imagery and generating reports on forest cover changes usually takes about 9 months, but we have managed to bring it down to 4-5 months. We have asked the NRSC to develop a system which can make it possible to provide information on forest cover change once in five days,” he said.
How does the new system work?
Presently, satellite imagery of large tracts of forest lands -- about 5-10 hectares -- are analysed for positive or negative changes in green cover. Negative change means deforestation has occurred in that particular forest patch or forest quality has degraded there. Once the satellite images are obtained, they are processed by scientists and reports are generated on an annual basis on the changes observed in the forest patches. This report on forest cover changes, gives information on the area of forest that has experienced either a positive or negative change inside a forest division.
However, more than large-scale level of deforestation in forest areas, which was the norm previously, nowadays forests in Telangana and across India are facing threat from small scale deforestation, in which forests of small patches of 1 hectare or less area are encroached or chopped. This further leads to fragmentation of forests and affects the forest as well as wildlife. With NRSC developing technology that makes it possible for monitoring forest cover changes over small areas of one hectare, by improving the resolution from 50 metres to 30 metres for Optical Remote Sensing, it helps in getting details of small-scale deforestation in forests.
Improved frequency of reporting
Earlier the reports on forest cover changes were generated on an annual basis. However, now the NRSC has developed their automated forest change detection algorithm, by which it can generate reports on a monthly basis as well. Moreover, the NRSC will also provide the exact location - Latitude and Longitude, of the locations inside forests where the forest cover change has been observed.
With these reports the forest department need not wait for months together to get one report on forest cover change and can keep a tab on encroachments of forests or deforestation on a monthly basis, ensuring quick action as well as limiting the damage caused to forests.
105 % increase in negative change in forest cover in Telangana since 2014
Since 2014-15, the positive change in forest cover has increased in Telangana from 706 Ha to 2,000 Ha in 2016-17. However, it is not a matter to rejoice as in the same period, the negative change in forest cover has increased much faster - by about 105 percent - from 1,818 Ha in 2016-17 to 3,741 Ha in 2017-18. The highest ‘negative change in forest cover’, in the period 2016-17, is 325Ha at Asifabad forest division located close to Forest minister Jogu Ramanna’s constituency Adilabad. Medak seems to have become the hub of deforestation in Telangana as Hyderabad continues to expand.