Forest Department of Gujarat has proposed to initiate drone surveillance in the forest areas of the state including the Gir National Park, the only habitat of Asiatic Lion in the world, for the protection of the forests and wildlife in the state.
The proposal has been sent to the state government for its approval after the Forest & Environment minister and officials of the department attended the recent two-day conference of state Forest & Environment ministers and officials of the department in New Delhi.
A senior official in the government said that Gujarat has a vast forest area and it was very difficult to keep a close vigil on it manually since we have a limited man-force available.
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“And therefore, we have moved the proposal for introducing e-surveillance of the forest areas. The experiment has been successful in Panna Tiger Reserve of Madhya Pradesh and it can be replicated here in Gujarat also,” said the officer.
“We can have drones employed in key areas, you set the coordinates and it can keep the aerial vigil and send the video or photographs on a computer to be handled by a forest official,” the officer added.
In its proposal that was sent after the conference in New Delhi, the Forest Department has also sought to increase the fine for cutting trees in the reserved forest area. “Under the provisions of the Indian Forest Act, 1927, the punishment for cutting a tree is fine of Rs 500. Now, this provision is there since British era. And the fine amount is not commensurate with the present economic condition and so, its purpose of deterrence seems to be defeated,” said a senior officer.
“And so, it has been proposed to increase the fine amount for cutting trees in reserved forests significantly from Rs 500 to Rs 50,000,” the officer added.
Meanwhile, the Forest Department has also proposed to initiate welfare activities for the front level officials of the departments like guards and rangers.
According to a Forest Department official, these front line officials are guarding our forests day in and day out. And so they need to be provided with proper facilities for their families like residential quarters and education facility. And so, the officer added, it is proposed to provide them quarters and schools near it.