Drone mapping to curb illicit felling of trees

SHIMLA: Drone mapping of its precious forest wealth could be the answer to Himachal’s problem of illicit felling of trees, with the trial in two wards of Shimla Municipal Corporation (SMC) proving to be successful.

Drone mapping to curb illicit felling of trees

editorial@tribune.com

Pratibha Chauhan

Tribune News Service

Shimla, May 15

Drone mapping of its precious forest wealth could be the answer to Himachal’s problem of illicit felling of trees, with the trial in two wards of Shimla Municipal Corporation (SMC) proving to be successful.

It was following a case of illicit felling in Ramnagar area of the town that the High Court directed the state government to undertake an exercise to get mapping of its forest wealth done. The Council for Science, Technology and Environment got the drone mapping of two wards of Jakhu and Kanlog wards, having the highest concentration of forests, done a few days ago.

So far in India, drone mapping has been undertaken only in Bandipur Tiger Reserve in Karnataka, where it is not just the number of trees but also their species has been specified in the mapping. A Chandigarh based firm has undertaken drone mapping of Shimla forests. The mapping can confirm any case of felling with the canopy count being recorded in the mapping exercise.

“The preliminary results have indicated that the use of drones for undertaking forest mapping is successful and can help in checking illegal felling to a great extent,” admitted a senior bureaucrat. The findings of the trial mapping will be placed before the court on May 22 and to begin with the initiative could be adopted for mapping the entire forest wealth within Shimla MC.

Prior to arriving at adopting drone technology for mapping forests, the Council for Science, Technology and Environment had experimented with radio frequency identification tag where passive or active chip are inserted in the trees which keep emitting signals. However, this technology failed and then it was decided to experiment with drone mapping.

The council also undertook the task of preparing the change matrix of the forests within the Shimla MC with the help of satellite imagery and Google Map. Thus, the Council has change index for a period of 20 years with details of 2001, 2006, 2011 and 2016.

“The change matrix for the forest wealth within Shimla MC clearly indicates that while the area under forest remained the same but its density has incresead considerable,” revealed a forest official. Checking illegal felling of trees and protecting its precious forest wealth remains a herculean task for the state government. A major case of felling of 477 trees in Tara Devi area on the outskirts of the town had brought into focus the vulnerability of out forest wealth and the constraints faced in protecting it against mafia.

Radio tag frequency experiment failed

Prior to adopting drone technology for mapping forests, the Council for Science, Technology and Environment had experimented with radio frequency identification tag, where passive or active chip are inserted in trees which keep emitting signals. However, this technology failed and then it was decided to experiment with drone mapping.

Trial conducted in two wards successful

  • Successful drone mapping of two wards of Jakhu and Kanlog wards, having the highest concentration of forests, done a few days ago
  • The change matrix of the forests within Shimla MC with the help of satellite imagery and Google Map has been prepared for the last 15 years
  • Drone mapping of all 35 wards of Shimla MC could be undertaken considering the successful trials
  • The findings of the trial mapping will be placed before the court on May 22 and initiative could be adopted for mapping the entire forest wealth 

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