GUWAHATI, May 20 - The State forest department has started using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to monitor the forests and prevent illegal mining and cutting of trees, etc. The drones, now being used on an experimental basis in one forest division, will soon be used extensively across the State for forest management and protection activities.
�We have seen good results so far in Cachar where we have started using it. We plan to use the technology in all the forest divisions for better forest management soon,� Forest Minister Parimal Suklabaidya told The Assam Tribune.
Cachar division has been using a drone for the last three months to combat encroachment, illegal mining, illegal felling of trees inside the reserve forest, forest fires, practice of jhum cultivation inside the forest leading to loss of precious forest resources, inter-state border problem, etc. � issues which have been plaguing the Barak Valley for several years now.
�Since its application, many illegal activities have come down drastically. With the application of drones for monitoring and surveillance purpose, the situation has improved a lot,� Cachar DFO Sunnydeo Choudhury said, adding that the division is planning to procure four more drones and use them in all the ranges because of the effectiveness.
The Cachar division monitors all the quarry areas regularly using the drone for checking whether mining has been done as per the mining plan prescription and in accordance with environmental clearances. It also generates data regarding the extent of mining, availability of minor minerals in the quarry area, checking bank erosion, etc.
After a full charge, the drone can cover a 20 square km area in half an hour.
�Earlier, over 5,000 logs used to be smuggled through river routes. Following detection by the drone, forest officials began seizing them and this has led to decrease in such incidences. Reserve Forests are also being monitored for any illegal felling of trees. Recently, an area of five hectares of forest encroachment was cleared after being detected by the drone,� the DFO said.
While the Forest Survey of India issues alert after detection of any major forest fire in the region, giving the GPS coordinates of the burn patches, the Cachar division now follows the coordinates with the help of the drone as most of the forest fire patches are inaccessible. The burnt area assessment is done accurately and a report is generated for further management of the forest fire, the Minister�s PRO Sailendra Pandey informed.
Besides, the drone is also being used for monitoring the health of plantations in the nurseries and inter-state border areas which are prone to encroachment, illegal felling of tress, illegal extraction of natural resources, jhum cultivation, etc.