In Guiyang, Mother Nature meets high-tech
China Daily

Cloud technology has been playing a key role in supporting ecological protection efforts in Guizhou province in recent years, according to local officials.

By simply logging onto an app on their digital devices, members of the forestry department in Guiyang, Guizhou province, can record and compare detailed data related to their business - including biodiversity, the amount of forestry coverage, information about old and rare trees and patrol records over the past few years.

Forest fire management and an emergency response system were among the earliest ecological protection efforts in the city using digital technology.

Preventing fires

Since 2010, the city has began building a geographical information system, a forest fire remote video monitoring system and a big data management and analysis platform for fire prevention.

The system includes one city-level direction center, 11 county-level centers and 47 remote fire monitoring terminals, effectively covering about 39,000 hectares of forest area - more than 10 percent of the city's coverage - in central areas, according to the Guiyang Ecological Civilization Construction Commission.

By the end of 2017, Guiyang had invested more than 12 million yuan ($1.8 million) in the construction of the monitoring system and the maintenance of the app, and has basically formed an intelligent cloud platform that monitors for disasters, helps manage resources and supports cultivation and industry. Subsystem functions range from surveys to forest fund management.

Enhanced accuracy

"The surveillance is very accurate. The information will be transmitted through the app within 10 seconds, which greatly improves the efficiency of forest fire prevention," said Wu Zhengxing, an official in the Guiyang forest fire prevention office.

According to a recent report from Wu's department, forest fire incidents fell to only seven this year from a whopping 88 last year. Meanwhile, more fires have been reported quickly through the system.

"The reduction of fires and the quicker response times are the best evidence of digital efficiency in the forestry department," Wu said.

According to Li Tao, an engineer at the forest resources management station in Guiyang, the system has effectively improved field work, both for him and his colleagues.

"With the digital map and GPS in the app, we can easily find roads and avoid dangerous places in the forests. Before that, we needed to rely on a compass and paper map," Li said.

In July, Li completed a forest survey that had lasted for a year and a half. He needed to investigate and record information before uploading to the app - data involving tree stocks and varieties, as well as fire hazard levels.

With the help of the platform, Li doesn't need to bring a lot of graphs along as he used to do 10 years ago to check changes in the forest such as soil conditions and plant varieties.

"What we need to do now is to click and choose the related items on the tablet, and find the remote sensing images and compare the changes," he said.

Mission: Ecology

Guizhou is among 11 provinces and cities that are included in the Yangtze River Economic Belt, a key national development strategy. It has made ecological protection its most important mission.

Guiyang was recognized as the first State-level forest city by the State Forestry Bureau in 2004.

It is surrounded by a forest belt of 162,000 hectares, and has a coverage rate of 49 percent.

According to Zhao Deming, secretary of the Guiyang Committee of the Communist Party of China, the city will increase its forest coverage rate to 60 percent by 2020.

Investment needed

However, the huge area of forest also requires more investment in management, and the new digital management system, which is being upgraded, will effectively meet the needs, according to Wang Jianfeng, an official from the city's eco-civilization construction commission.

"The latest project of the Guiyang ecological cloud platform, - which has integrated forest information and management - will help the city realize its goal of ecological civilization."

The system is only one part of the city's ecological cloud platform. It also includes collection and sharing of information about water, air, pollutants and other things to allow quick decision-making, Wang said.