Satellite data to help Himalayan environment management

NASA satellite data will help in environment monitoring and management in the Himalayas Copyright: Flickr/ilkerender

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[NEW DELHI] An innovative web-based environmental management system ‘SERVIR-Himalaya’ using satellite earth observation data has been launched in the Himalayan region.

The system, launched this month (5 October) by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID), will integrate earth data from NASA satellites with geospatial information from other government agencies.

The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Kathmandu, will use the information to address threats related to climate change, biodiversity, and extreme events such as flooding, forest fires, and storms.

SERVIR-Himalaya will also help disaster management, biodiversity conservation, transboundary air pollution monitoring, snow and glacier monitoring, and mountain ecosystem management, a release by NASA and USAID said.
SERVIR already operates in East Africa and parts of Latin America. During tropical storm Agatha, which hit Guatemala and Southern Mexico towards the end of May 2010, SERVIR’s sensor data helped identify mountain communities hit by heavy rainfall.
The Kathmandu launch is part of increasing regional cooperation among Himalayan countries in glacier research, climate change and biodiversity conservation.
Earlier this month (4 October), India’s minister of environment and forests, Jairam Ramesh, visited ICIMOD to discuss cooperation in glacier research, climate change and biodiversity protection, and handed a cheque of US$160,000 as India’s contribution to ICIMOD, a spokesperson of India’s ministry of environment and forests told SciDev.Net.
Ramesh also pledged support for joint research programme by China, India and Nepal on Mount Kailash in the Himalayas, under the Kailash Scared Landscape Programme initiated by the United Nations Environment Programme and facilitated by ICIMOD.
The ecologically fragile Kailash Landscape has sacred significance to hundreds of millions of people across Asia, and includes a Himalayan mountain variously known as Kang Rinpoche, Gangrenboqi Feng, and Kailasa Parvata; spanning southwestern portions of Tibet, and adjacent Himalayan regions in India and Nepal.
Last month (46 September), representatives from the three countries met in Jiuzhaigou, China, to discuss a regional conservation strategy and monitoring plan for the Kailash Sacred Landscape.

The plan, to be prepared by ICIMOD, will feed into a regional cooperation framework for trans-boundary biodiversity, environmental and cultural conservation, scientific and technical cooperation, information exchange and sharing and regional guidelines and policy mechanisms.