The new age digital intervention to better manage our forests and deal with the maddening competition for earth’s forest resources

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25% of India’s total land area is of forests; Indian is one of the Top 12 biodiverse countries, contributing to 7% of the planet’s biodiversity, being a home to thousands of unique plant and animal species. How much do we know about our forests?

Human life, urban and rural livelihoods today run by continuously feeding on the resources from our forests, though often we don’t realize it in our daily lives. We cut trees from forests for paper, furniture & crafts, flooring & construction, fuel & electricity, herbs & medicines, spices & food etc. While it’s okay to consume from our forests, it’s important we do it in a sustainable way so we can leave behind a greener, healthier planet for future generations to come and for life to continue.

How do we balance between the needs of people and the needs of the forest?

Firstly, we need to know, which tree to cut. An aging tree or a diseased tree, could spread fungal infections to other parts of the tree or may compete for more nutrients, harming the growth of other healthy trees. Forest logging or harvesting, meaning cutting these unneeded trees for commercial use, benefit the forest’s health and also serve human livelihood needs.

With today’s sensors and data collection tools, we can get to know which tree in the forest is worth what amount of money, based on how healthy the tree’s trunk or branch is. We can also get to detect decayed trunks with the help of technology. With the help of these tools forest harvesters, get much needed information about the forest, to be able to take decisions before cutting down trees. A forest management software company called treemetrics.com helps forest owners, easily predict the value of every tree, before cutting it. Treemetrics is also providing surveillance tools to monitor the forest while harvesting, so timber theft and theft of other resources can be acted upon.

With the help of technology and data, analysed and fed as an insight to forest owners, we can create a culture of sustainable forest harvesting, which means consuming forest resources in a way that doesn’t destroy or harm nature in the long term.

Smart forest: Be alerted when a 100 year old tree, preserved for medicinal value, is about to be cut illegally. Because it could have a cure for future generations. And it could take another century to grow it, if it’s cut down.

What if there is harm to the trees which are meant to be preserved? Imagine the Government (forest department) getting alerts on their mobile phones when a tree highly valuable to mankind, is about to be cut down illegally.

This digital intervention project is a collaboration between a scientist from the Institute of wood science and technology (IWST) Bengaluru and Hitachi India, a private firm.

Smart forest runs on IoT (internet of things) that includes a small smart device fixed on the trees that need to be secured. This device is water & weather resistant and it sends an alert to the cellphone of the user via cloud. Whenever there is any threat to tree of chopping, cutting or uprooting the device sends a threat alert.

Director of IWST Surendra kumar states, “This research project is to develop a solution for monitoring and standardizing the e-protection system of valuable trees. IWST has become the first institution in the country to have tried such a system and develop a protocol for its commercial adaptation through a public- private-partnership. Hitachi india is funding this initiative under its CSR programme and has deployed its hitachi anomaly detection to prediction and prescription ( HAD2P) technology to monitor and detect illegal cutting and movement of high-value trees”.

Gnaneshwar Kambali, General Manager, Digital solution and services group, Hitachi india states, “This CSR project is an amalgamation of our business and technological strength such as IoT to celebrate disruptive transformation for the environment and the society at large”.

How do we regenerate our forests for future generations?

Technology not only helps in harvesting or consuming from the forest in a sustainable way, but also enables us in seeding back and regenerating the forest. For every tree that is felled (cut down completely), a seedling is placed, which would grow and mature with time, and return yields.

Technology today helps in forecasting the growth of a crop / tree and also enables in remotely monitoring the growth, from the convenience of a mobile phone.

Digital inventory of trees

With the help of technology, we can recognize each tree, identify each tree with a universal resource indicator (URI) which maps and tags each tree with it’s location coordinates (latitude and longitude), type, age, width, height, fruit and seeds creating an inventory. With a digital inventory of trees, we get to maintain a documentation of roots and the tree’s vulnerability to being attacked by natural gas leaks at the roots. Methane leaks kill the oxygen at the roots, resulting in mass destruction of trees.