Clean Tech

Smart ways to stem forest destruction

V Rishi Kumar | Updated on January 09, 2018 Published on December 19, 2017

In need of protection Sandalwood is our precious forest resource   -  Vipin Chandran

IoT-based sensors now help detect illegal chopping of high-value trees

Technology-driven smart sensors based on Internet of Things (IoT) are now coming to the rescue of forests from fires and protecting remotely located precious forest resources.

Hitachi India’s Smart Forest initiative, taken up in collaboration with the Institute of Wood Science and Technology (IWST), an institute under India Council for Forestry Research under Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, is a pointer to how IoT can make a difference in protecting precious forest resources.

In a novel initiative such sensors have been installed in a 25-acre area in rural Bengaluru. This has helped develop a solution for timely detection and prevention of unauthorised axing/chopping off of valuable trees. The idea is to monitor the health and growth of the trees by remote monitoring.

The Hitachi Anomaly Detection to Protection and Prescription Technology uses sensors to help detect illegal cutting and movement of high value trees. They send information about the tree and where it is located. Gnaneshwar Kambali, General Manager, Digital Solutions and Services Group, Hitachi India says, “This initiative is aligned to Hitachi’s Social Innovation Business in India. Smart forest is an innovative and cost effective IoT technology based solution to decrease the cost incurred towards protection, avoid illicit cutting and stealing of rare species trees.”

The technology analysis the disturbance to the trees and triggers an alarm, which intimates the concerned authority on a mobile phone to facilitate necessary action.

“Sandalwood, red sanders and other such precious forest resources are recognised as amongst most valuable and economically important commercial tree species,” says Surendra Kumar, Director, IWST. “Development of protocol for microchip based e-protection system for valuable trees is aimed to help conserve and enhance the status of these precious bio-resources.”

“Towards curbing possible extinction of valuable resources in forests, there has been increased interest by both forest departments and private growers towards expansion of plantations,” he says. “This research project is aimed at developing a solution for monitoring and standardising the e-protection system.”

By implementing such a solution, IWST has become the first such institution in the country to do so. This has the potential for commercial adaptation through public-private partnership mode.

The sandalwood market alone is expected to be worth over ₹10,000 crore annually and protecting this precious resource in forests, as also in private cultivations, has become a key focus area.

An easy to install sensor is implanted on a sandalwood tree and this is connected as an IoT device. Any disturbance to the tree triggers an alarm, which gets reflected on a mobile phone through an app.

Other States to follow

But the aim now is on bringing down the size of the sensors and the cost, while also enhancing the life of the battery.

Efforts are also on to see if solar powered batteries could be used.

Google maps, GPS and various other aspects are used in the network. Courts in Himachal Pradesh have directed the State government to take forest felling in Shimla seriously and address the problem, and the technology may be an answer. Already discussions are on with several forest departments of Kerala, Karnataka, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh as also with sandalwood farmers to deploy this technology. With increase in theft due to illegal cutting of sandalwood trees and the loss this could cause, such sensor based solution along with CCTV cameras could be useful to check the menace.

Significantly, there is immense potential to take this concept forward. In the future there could be environment monitoring sensors, which can be used for tracking the unfolding season, birds and their songs, for fish observation, rainforest ecology and so on.

Published on December 19, 2017

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