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AI use can help Pakistan effectively prevent, control forest fires

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ISLAMABAD, June 03 (INP) – Artificial Intelligence (AI) can greatly help Pakistan avoid forest fires.

“As a sustainable source of livelihood and environmental safety, forests need to be protected and expanded,” emphasized Muhammad Niaz Khan Kakar, Project Director of Ten Billion Trees Tsunami Programme – Phase-I Up-scaling of Green Pakistan Programme.

Talking to WealthPK, he said the use of AI for forest safety across the globe had produced better outcomes. “Turkey’s forest department is well-equipped with AI-based devices, including fire occurrence monitors, data collection, smart cameras, fire forecast technology, drones and an active fleet of helicopters, which go a long way in extinguishing fires promptly, thus preventing them from spreading. Turkey has sophisticated fire alarming/extinguishing systems though usual temperature in the country are not that severe.”

Niaz said that forests were shelter against the climatic impacts, but forest fires were a regular phenomenon occurring in every forest whether it was of broad-leaved or coniferous nature. “Compared to broad-leaved tree forests, pinewoods or conifers are more vulnerable to fires. Unfortunately, nowhere in Pakistan has any smart system been introduced to cope with the existing fires or to set alarms before they happen. In the Balochistan province, the pinewoods in the district of Shirani usually catch fires, burning precious pine nuts and causing a great loss to the local communities because they earn their livelihood through their harvesting.”

He called for awareness concerning the use of AI-based smart technology to prevent and tackle forest fires. “In this context, the government can get assistance from other countries, particularly China, which has advanced forest safety techniques.”

Meanwhile, Syed Ali Imran, Conservator Forests and Wildlife Department, Balochistan, said the use of AI, especially for the protection of forests, was increasing rapidly. “Smart early warning systems can help cope with a multitude of fire-causing and warning aspects – early heatwave prediction, changing humidity levels in a specific area, and relevant data recording.”

Talking to WealthPK, he said if a fire broke out in an area, AI could be used to identify the possible direction of the spread of the blaze with the possible air direction. “It will at least help the relevant communities and officials to move in a safe direction and manage the fire line. The fire history of any area is also necessary to have to cope with the expected outbreaks. For this purpose, satellite imagery and accurate data from last 20 to 25 years can help understand the wildfire pattern periodically.”

Ali said Pakistan direly needed to have smart technologies for sustainable forest management. “Pakistan also needs to enhance forest cover as it has already suffered huge vegetation loss due to wildfires. Application of AI-based techniques can help prevent the loss or to keep it under control.”

He called for training of the communities living near the forests, foresters and other citizens to tackle forest fires effectively.”

The Balochistan forest conservator said forests were a source of sustainable livelihood for local communities, thus they needed to be protected, especially from the impact of climate change.

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