Community-based forest fire information system

By Nepal Foresters’ Association

28 September 2015

Project at a glance 

The community-based forest fire information system complements the efforts of ICIMOD to provide timely information about forest fire incidents in Nepal to relevant officials in the forestry sector. ICIMOD’s current forest fire Information system uses data collected by MODIS 2 to send automated information on forest fires to the main forestry stakeholders, including the Department of Forests, district forest officers and district officials of the Federation of Community Forest Users, Nepal (FECOFUN). 

The community-based forest fire information system takes the information flow to next level by making it two way: When a forest fire occurs, information is sent by SMS to members of communities in the area and community can also alert officials about forest fire incidents in their localities that are not captured by the satellites ‘terra and aqua that passes over the region only twice a day at 10.00 am and 2 pm respectively. 

This information system is arranged in a manner that involves community members in providing essential information that can support long term plans on forest fire management. Ground-based information helps in identifying sites vulnerable to forest fire, the causes of forest fires, and methods of combating forest fires, which is valuable to the communities and volunteer associations involved in monitoring forest fires. 

The specific objectives of the system are to:

  • prepare a GIS-based database related to forest fires 
  • establish forest fire information sharing and a feedback mechanism or system to feed information from users to the District Forest Office and Department of Forest
  • support the District Forest Office and Department of Forests in the collection and dissemination of forest fire information
  • transfer the skill and knowledge contained in the fire information system to community forestry users 
  • integrate the GIS-based database into the fire alert system of ICIMOD
  • develop two-way communication between communities and those working in the forest sector to control forest fires

Key features of the application 

  • The SMS system: Sends out information about forest fire occurrence to all villagers.  
  • Data collection: The system has a feedback mechanism whereby Users can upload information on causes and aftermath of a fire. 
  • District information system: The district-based map provides information on forest fire vulnerable zones, nearby water sources and the road network. 

How does it work?

A. SMS system

Operation of the SMS system (UG: User group)

Step 1: Sending SMS message to the system when forest fire is sighted

Step 2: Sending Information from the system to the users on occurrence of forest fire

Step 3: Sending information from the system to users on control of forest fire

Data collection

The data collection/feedback mechanism of the system enables users to upload information on the location, causes, and aftermath of the fire, among other things. These details can be uploaded, retrieved, and edited for further analysis using a computer or aneroid mobile set.  

District information 

The district-based map generated by the system provides information on zones vulnerable to forest fire, nearby water sources and the road network. This map will enable district officials to provide support in case of forest fires. The current base map shows the site of all community forest user groups in Makawanpur district, along with the location of police and army posts and potential water sources. It will also provide road information in the future. 

Benefits of the information system 

The system enables community members to alert others in their community within two minutes of sighting a fire. This makes it possible for them to mobilise resources to extinguish the fire on time, thereby reducing the loss of forest area. Other benefits include reduced greenhouse gas emissions from accidental forest fires and the training of local communities in innovative use of mobile information system in their village.

Cost implication for maintaining the information system

The application is hosted by Nepal Telecom at the rate of one rupee per SMS send from system to the corresponding members. One person has to go to site of forest fire and collect information on aftermath of the fire and upload information on the app storage, retrieval and analysis. 

Potential room upscaling the system in the future

With support from ICIMOD and the Department of Forests, the system can be implemented in the rest of Nepal. We are currently working with the Department of Forest to replicate the system in other parts of Nepal, starting with those states that are most vulnerable to fire. 

 Key partners:

  • Department of Forests, 
  • District forest officers, 
  • District officials of the Federation of Community Forest Users, Nepal (FECOFUN).