Regional partners trained on applying remote sensing technology to monitor and map deforestation and forest degradation

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A week-long training was held from 4—8 August on remote sensing based knowledge and techniques for forest monitoring and mapping at various scales. The training was attended by 32 officials and professionals working in forestry sector from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan. 

Organized within the framework of the SERVIR-Himalaya initiative, the training aimed to strengthen the use of remote sensing methods for assessing deforestation and monitoring forest degradation in ICIMOD’s regional member countries. SERVIR is a joint initiative of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) that combines science, technology and development programmes. SERVIR-Himalaya is implemented by International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD)

Participants receive hands-on training on mapping and monitoring deforestation and forest degradation

The training workshop included hands-on demonstrations, theoretical presentations, and discussions. For the hands-on training, participants used ground data on the community forests and the landscape collected from ICIMOD’s pilot study area. The rapid assessment methods and cost effective datasets will help to monitor Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) initiatives. 

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Dr Eklabya Sharma, ICIMOD’s Director of Programme Operations, highlighted ICIMOD's activities and initiatives in facilitating the REDD+ projects. He explained the complexities in forest ecosystems and emphasized the need for using scientific tools and methods in monitoring biomass. 

Birendra Bajracharya, Technical Coordinator for the SERVIR-Himalaya initiative and Regional Programme Manager for Mountain Environment Regional Information System (MENRIS), introduced the SERVIR programme to the participants and encouraged them to use the lessons learnt during the training in their work. He said that ICIMOD will continue to provide technical support to its partners in member countries. 

Participants were shown how to use a GPS receiver to map and monitor forest changes during a demonstration at the ICIMOD Knowledge Park at Godavari

The training was well received by participants, who recognized remote sensing as the way forward for implementing REDD+ activities in their respective countries. During the closing ceremony, participants gave their feedback on the workshop. Speaking on behalf of the participants, Arun Rai, Senior Forest Officer in the Department of Forests in Bhutan, said, “This training is very relevant to Bhutan as we are embarking on REDD+ initiatives. Given our limited financial resources, we have been searching for freely available software and satellite images, and we would like to thank ICIMOD for showcasing all those.”

Participant from India, Evansara Shullai, working in the Forest Department in Meghalaya, shared similar thoughts. She said. “In Meghalaya, where I come from, the bulk of the forests is lost to shifting cultivation. Now we can apply remote sensing to monitor and reduce those effects.”

Anwar Ali, Forest Mensuration Officer at the Pakistan Forest Institute was another participant. He said, “The use of geospatial techniques, in combination with field measurements, demonstrated during the course showed that remote sensing is the way forward for implementation of REDD+ schemes. I gained a lot from this training, it was informative and relevant to my job.” 

In his closing remarks, Dr MSR Murthy, Geospatial Solutions Theme Leader at ICIMOD, encouraged participants to stay in touch with ICIMOD to receive technical inputs and guidance on the implementation of remote sensing for natural resources monitoring, mapping and analyzing. Participants were awarded certificates by Dr David Molden, ICIMOD’s Director General.