S P A R C
Introduction

India is known for its diverse forests and availability of rich flora and faunas generating valuable revenue every year through its forest derived products. But, there has been an underlying concern about the status of this natural resource. As of 2021 India State of Forest Report, India's total forest and tree cover was 80.9 million hectares, which accounted for 24.62% of the geographical area of the country. Even so, it's far beyond the stipulated 33% forest cover that will ensure environmental and economical balance.


Forests are essential for mitigating the effects of climate change and global warming. They act as carbon sinks, absorb greenhouse gasses, and help regulate the Earth's temperature. However, climate change, natural disasters, and human encroachment have significantly impacted forest management. Studies on Land Use and Land Cover Change (LULCC) are now central to strategies aimed at managing natural resources and monitoring environmental changes.


Role of GeoICT in Forest Management

In pressured environmentally sensitive and ecologically important regions, there is a continuing need for up-to-date and accurate land cover information that can be utilized in the production of sustainable land use policies. GeoICT (Geospatial Information and Communication Technology) provides powerful tools for detecting and analyzing forest cover changes. By leveraging remote sensing, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and related technologies, GeoICT enables detailed observation and analysis of forest areas over time. These tools offer high precision and up-to-date data, essential for effective forest management.


Historically, forest boundaries were often approximations, leading to confusion, misadministration, and encroachments. Inaccurate land records resulted in forest mismanagement and departmental conflicts. By implementing Remote sensing and GIS in this area, precise, geo-referenced, digitized forest boundaries were created. The collective GIS and remote sensing technology is found to be an excellent tool for monitoring land use changes as well as settlements, agricultures and forest land changes.


As the population grows exponentially, the future of biodiversity looks bleak. Once dense, the forests are under severe encroachment leading to habitat fragmentation and frequent man-animal conflicts. GeoICT plays an important role in identifying best migratory routes for the animals, identifying degraded forests. UAVs paired with mapping payloads can help in monitoring and tracking difficult terrains generating real-time information


Case studies

Our several projects such as, Geo referencing of forests of Odisha, Uttarakhand Forest Resource Management Project, etc, have concluded that economic development and environment conservation goes hand in hand. As much as we need infrastructure and last mile connectivity, we need forests to sequester the carbon and reduce the impact of increasing global warming. In Odisha we collaborated with the state government in developing geo referenced forest boundaries and created a monitoring system to track usage, condition, developmental projects of the forestlands. On the other hand, in Uttarakhand, we partnered with the Uttarakhand state government and JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency), to restore about 37,500 ha of degraded forests involving 800+ Van Panchayats (community forest organizations) across the state over the past 6 years.



Conclusion

In conclusion, integrating GeoICT (Geographic Information and Communication Technology) for monitoring forest cover changes and management is vital for maintaining environmental balance and ensuring the long-term economic and ecological well-being of our planet. By adopting these technologies, we can guarantee that our forests remain healthy and continue to contribute to a more sustainable world.