After water crisis, Shimla fights illegal tree-felling with GPS, drones

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New Delhi | Published: July 2, 2018 9:40:20 AM

After reeling under acute water crisis, Shimla has now turned it focus on conserving its forest wealth. With an aim to check the menace of illegal cutting trees in the area, an ambitious project was launched.

shimla water crisisAfter reeling under acute water crisis, Shimla has now turned it focus on conserving its forest wealth. With an aim to check the menace of illegal cutting trees in the area, an ambitious project was launched.

After reeling under acute water crisis, Shimla has now turned it focus on conserving its forest wealth. With an aim to check the menace of illegal cutting trees in the area, an ambitious project was launched. “This will provide real-time GPS data and a scientific record on the forest wealth of Shimla. If anyone damages or cuts a tree on private land, our team can easily check how many were cut through a GPS-enabled mobile phone. They can immediately send an alert about the missing tree and its tag number,” Additional chief secretary, forest and environment, Tarun Kapoor was quoted as saying by Indian Express.

Forest Department officials said that there are an estimated 4,00,000 trees within Shimla municipal limits. “And until March 15, records show 2,81,780 trees had been accounted for. If the project sticks to schedule, all the trees will be located on GPS by October,” officials said.

The project got going after Himachal Pradesh High Court in last October had ordered that each tree must be mapped and implanted with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags. It also ordered that an “environmental audit” should be conducted of all trees and saplings. Apart from the High Court had ordered that satellite and drones must map the forest cover.

“The only other place where these tags were tested was in controlled conditions on a batch of sandalwood trees at Bengaluru’s Institute of Wood Science and Technology, under the Indian Council of Foreset Research,” Kunal Sathyarthi, member secretary, Himachal Pradesh Council for Science, Technology and Environment (HIMCOSTE), which is providing technical support for the project, was quoted as saying by IE.

“The idea of using technology — satellite mapping, digitisation of the number of trees with GPS tags and drone survey — is to eliminate the role of officials. Technology will help track each and every sensitive beat of the forest. After Shimla is done, we will try to cover the rest of Himachal Pradesh,” said Deven Khanna, Amicus Curiae appointed by the court. “It’s not that trees were not felled in the early days of Shimla, especially in mid-1800s. All the houses here were made by felling trees. But the forest was raised once again. Today, Shimla’s forest is the oldest living urban forest of the world but a highly threatened one. It’s high time we put in place a reliable system for real-time tracking. Not a single tree should be allowed to die or go missing anymore,” he said.

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