Kathmandu, Nepal: The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in collaboration with Nepal’s Forest Department developed a forest fire detection and monitoring system based on satellite data. The system is in the early stages of implementation in Nepal and ICIMOD is looking to expand it to cover neighbouring Bhutan.
The Maryland-based Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS) delivers active fire information based on images collected from two NASA satellites — Terra and Aqua — that complete an orbit in 98 minutes each. The new ICIMOD’s system reprocesses FIRMS data to provide localised information on active fires within the ward — municipal subunit — where the fire is located, whether the fire is in a protected area, altitude and slope of the site, and land cover type. Updates are sent by SMS and email to subscribers. Alerts are sent out twice daily, two hours after each satellite passes over the region.
Speaking to SciDev, Yajnanath Dahal, technical undersecretary at Nepal’s ministry of forests and soil conservation said, “The application serves as an information-gathering and awareness-raising tool but a lot more is needed, such as fire-fighting equipment, transportation, trained personnel, and water. If we can manage all of this in the districts, then the application will be very useful.”
However, there is a two-hour lag between satellite fire detection and reporting. Arun Rai, senior forest officer in Bhutan’s department of forests and park services, assured that ICIMOD will manage to reduce this to a few minutes once it sets up its own receiving station for satellite images, later this year.