Rourkela: The Odisha forest department has recently launched an app to track and fight forest fires during the coming summer, forest officials said.
In addition, a Whatsapp group called Forest Fire Alert has also been created for sharing alerts and information regarding tracking, preventing and fighting such fires between forest officials and locals who form squads to help the forest officials, they said.
“We have been successful in reducing the incidences of forest fire to half at this moment,” Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of Sundergarh Arun K Mishra said.
The new app was launched on March 3 this year, he said.
The Forest Survey of India (FSI) keeps a close watch and whenever there is a fire, their officials inform the officials of the state forest department, Mishra said.
Forest officials are then sent to the spot, he explained.
“On reaching the spot, a forest official will have to take a photo of the spot and upload it in the Whatsapp group, and also in the app as soon as possible,” Mishra said.
The photo will automatically go to the state principal conservator of forests as well as to all department officials in the Whatsapp group, Mishra said.
As a result, nobody in the department can claim to be on the spot without being actually present there.
“Apart from technology, the traditional methods to fight forest fire are also being used,” DFO Rourkela Sanjay Swain said.
In the traditional methods, forest squads – comprising forest department staff and local people draw fire lines by digging the earth to control the spread of fire.
Blowers are also used to keep dry leaves away from a fire and controlled burning is also carried out.
In Rourkela Forest Division, over 500 kilometre of fire line has been drawn to control forest fire.
“We have over 216 squads in six ranges of Sundergarh division,” Mishra said.
Similarly, the Rourkela division has over 180 squads.
At Bonai division, similar squads are functioning to take care of forest fires.
Both Swain and Mishra agreed that despite so much efforts and awareness drives, miscreants, carelessness and age old practises are causing forest fires.