Mobile phone app to monitor watershed activities

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MANILA, Philippines—The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is looking into tapping a mobile phone application to put a stop to illegal forest activities and identify denuded sites for reforestation.

Environment Secretary Ramon Paje has signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with Manuel V. Pangilinan of Smart Communications Inc. and two other companies, the Philippine Disaster Recovery Foundation (PDRF) and system developer Wide-Out Workforces Inc., to launch the “SnapPlot” mobile application.

The app would be initially used to monitor for six months forest activities within the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape (UMRBPL), the pilot site for the project.

The UMRBPL covers an area of over 26,000 hectares and spans the upper reaches of the Marikina watershed in Rizal province, which flows through Antipolo City and the towns of Baras, Rodriguez, San Mateo and Tanay.

Through the application, users may take a picture, geo-tag the location and upload it on the SnapPlot website where it would be automatically plotted on a map. The information could then be used for monitoring, environmental law enforcement and database building.

“SnapPlot will allow users to share valuable information that can help the DENR enforce the forestry laws more effectively within the watershed, as well as take the necessary actions that can help everyone living in and around the area in times of calamities or disaster,” Paje said.

Under the MOA, the PDRF will utilize SnapPlot for its reforestation activities within the UMRBPL and provide logistics for the project, while the DENR will use the system for its monitoring and law enforcement activities.

Smart Communications will provide mobile phones—preloaded with the SnapPlot application—to personnel of the department and of the PDRF, while Wide-Out will allow the free use of the system, host the SnapPlot website and provide the necessary technical support.

The pilot site was chosen primarily to keep track of reforestation activities at the UMRBPL that is seen to prevent massive flooding similar to that spawned by Tropical Storm “Ondoy,” which hit Metro Manila and nearby provinces in September 2009.

Paje said the DENR and PDRF hoped to gather enough data from the project’s field personnel after six months. He added that the project would be replicated in other watersheds.

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