Google map for Saranda – Hi-tech survey will help eco planners

The Telegraph

KUMUD JENAMANI

e-lens on Saranda forests

Jamshedpur, May 19: Foresters will now turn to Google Earth to map the mysteries of Asia’s largest saal reserve, a classic case of e-lens on ecology.

Saranda forest division, preparing a 10-year working plan to protect Asia’s biggest saal reserve, is taking help of the hi-tech freeware — a virtual globe — to map the 850sqkm area, identify problems and solutions. Tabling them as a comprehensive working plan, foresters will seek central funds to execute the task.

Foresters need to know the key areas in Saranda — green cover, barren land, water bodies, hills as well as areas of human activity such as iron-ore mining pockets, railway tracks and roads.

To keep tabs on poachers, timber smugglers and even rebels, the forest department needs to know the topography like the palm of their hand.

Conventionally, foresters need to deploy manpower, vehicles, fuel and ammo to do so.

But all this needs money. The cash-strapped department often finds manpower and infrastructure a serious drain on its meagre resources, which results in compromising the quality of the work.

Conventional means to know the topography of any forest — leave Saranda — can take months on end.

Now, all this is set to change.

Where foot soldiers — ill-equipped forest guards or contractual staffers, for instance — can’t reach, Google Earth can, and in fraction of the time.

Google Earth, available in 45 languages, enables users to see 3-D images or geospatial data.

It only needs a compatible operating system such as Android, Windows (2000, XP, Vista, 7), OS X, Symbian, Blackberry Storm, iOS or Linux.

“I agree this is an ambitious working plan, but we want to bring about a synergy of technology with ecology. It is about time we did so,” divisional forest officer of Saranda K.K. Tiwary said, speaking extensively on the advantages of using Google Earth over manual tours.

Tiwary, who said they would also include traditional manual tours later to prevent lacunae, added they were making this comprehensive plan exclusively to protect Saranda’s green cover and enrich its ecology.

“After a survey of the 850sqkm area through Google Earth, we will also include our traditional mapping inputs to make the working plan as accurate as possible. Then, we will send it to the central government through the state forest department for necessary funds,” Tiwary added.

“Once we have the full topography, we will know the main threats to Saranda’s ecology and how they can be countered. In our report, we will give a detailed description of measures adopted to increase the forest cover,” the senior forester said.

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