New Delhi/Nainital: In a first, the Uttarakhand Forest Department has launched a drone for real-time monitoring of the forest fire and to take preventive measures, officials said here on Monday.
The drone was launched by the state's Forest and Wildlife Minister Harak Singh Rawat from a remote location in Nainital district that falls under the western circle -- a big part of the vast Terai region of the state located outside the tiger and forest reserves.
The Forest Department has dedicated three drones for monitoring the forest fire, according to the officials.
"We are using drones for real-time monitoring of the forest fires. This is for the first time in India," Dr Parag Madhukar Dhakate, Conservator of Forests, western circle and in-charge of the monitoring and usage of the unmanned aerial vehicle, told IANS.
Already in field, the drone on Sunday and Monday did the real-time aerial monitoring and showed the department workers developing a fire-line in the western circle forest to check fire from spreading.
Uttarakhand faces maximum incidents of forest fires in the country.
This year, 236 cases of forest fires affecting 333.34 hectare area has already been reported by the government officials.
"Uttarakhand is very sensitive in terms of forest fire. Forest Department tries to take preventive measures and tackle it using the traditional methods and with the help of satellite images. But it's very difficult to know about the forest fire in the Terai and Bhabar regions," Dhakate told IANS.
The Terai region includes the fertile lowlands of the southern Himalayan, Shivalik foothills and north of Indo-Gangetic plains, while the Bhabar region lies along the foot of the Shivaliks and runs parallel to the north side of Terai.
Dhakate added that besides the real-time monitoring of fire, drones are already being used in wildlife conservation for nest status, aviation ethology, crocodile and water birds counting and monitoring.
In 2016, about 4,500 hectares of forest land was destroyed in 2,000 incidents of forest fires in Uttarakhand. Himachal Pradesh -- the second most forest fire-prone state -- in 2016 lost 3,500 hectare forest land.
According to official figures, in both states taken together there were 20,667 incidents of forest fires in 2016 compared to 15,937 incidents in 2015.
The Forest Survey of India (FSI) estimates that 1.45 million hectares of forest land is affected by fires annually, with 6.17 per cent of the forests prone to severe fire damage.
Uttarakhand has about 71 per cent of total geographical area (38,139 square km) under forest cover.