ICIMOD Hosts Workshop to Improve Forest Fire Management in the Region

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ICIMOD, in collaboration with the United States Forest Service (USFS), organized a workshop on Developing Forest Adaptation Strategies under Changing Climate Scenarios: Geospatial Support Systems for Improved Forest Fire Management 10–12 April.

Wild fire incidents are a serious issue during the dry season and are often exacerbated by climate change, agricultural practices, careless attitudes, and lack of awareness. The use of geospatial and earth observation technologies can be instrumental in monitoring and detecting fires, as demonstrated with the MODIS-based SERVIR-Himalaya forest fire detection system and online application piloted in 2012. 

During the first two days of the workshop, the use and potential of these technologies were highlighted and participants learned about remote sensing aspects of forest fire management. Experts from USFS shared valuable knowledge on their experience with remote sensing for fire management, burnt severity mapping, and the use of fire models. USFS collaboration in the eastern Himalayas comprises work on data collection, decision-making tools for forest resource assessment, monitoring, management and has a special focus on capacity-building. 

The near real-time forest fire alert system was officially launched during the workshop by chief guest Dr Krishna Paudel, Secretary of Department of Forest and Soil Conservation of Nepal. The system is the first of its kind in the region, and ICIMOD is planning to implement similar systems in other countries of the Hindu Kush Himalayan region. He also announced the posting of the 2010 Nepal Land Cover Database on the ICIMOD Mountain GeoPortal for public validation.

On the third day, a policy workshop brought together senior policy makers from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Pakistan. Participants visited the MODIS receiving station on the ICIMOD Headquarters premises and were informed about the role of MODIS satellite imagery in detecting fire locations, and how SMS fire alerts are sent to concerned subscribers.

Challenges and lessons learned, as well as needs and gaps among the different countries, were shared and recommendations were made for improved policies and future collaboration and ways to adopt innovative geospatial technologies. Priority areas related to technology, capacity, and policy were identified for each country.

The workshop was sponsored by the US Department of State, USFS, and NASA and USAID through the SERVIR-Himalaya Initiative.