Asian disaster management project to expand

Tsunami damage in India, 2004 Copyright: European Commission

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[HYDERABAD] A Japanese project using satellite data for disaster management and support services across Asia could extend its coverage to Africa and Latin America, an expert says.

Hideshi Kozawa, associate executive director of the Japanese space agency JAXA, told delegates at the International Astronautical Congress meeting in Hyderabad, India, this week (26 September) that the Sentinel Asia project will be expanded to cover more end users in Asia and has potential for extension to other developing countries in Africa and Latin America.

Sentinel Asia began as a voluntary initiative in October 2006 under the Asia Pacific Regional Space Agency Forum in Japan. It uses remote sensing data from Japanese satellites to provide disaster information across Asia.

Currently the project uses data from Japan’s Advanced Land Observing Satellite (ALOS) earth observation satellite, but India, Thailand and other Asian countries with space programmes have shown interest in adding their own satellite data to the initiative. Australia is also providing data from its wildfire monitoring system.

Asia experiences 37 per cent of the world’s natural disasters, 55 per cent of the deaths they cause and an estimated US$55 billion worth of economic damage, Kozowa said.

Furthermore, the third assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released in May, suggests increasing damage due to global warming related disasters such as glacier melts, floods and drought.

Low resolution satellite data covering a large area is useful for disaster surveillance and monitoring, while high resolution data helps in localised disaster mitigation efforts, said V S Hedge, programme director of disaster management support at the Indian Space Research Organisation.

Sentinel Asia works in close collaboration with the Asian Disaster Reduction Centre (ADRC). Countries facing a sudden natural calamity can post emergency requests for data that are immediately processed and supplied by JAXA.

Kozowa said the project could also serve as a regional cooperation model as it has been initiated by a regional space agency forum, involves a regional disaster reduction centre, and works in close cooperation with international organisations such as the ADRC and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.

He said it offers an ideal platform for Asian countries to resolve common problems such as disaster management, water management and environment monitoring.

Kozowa added that the next phase of the project will focus on expanding use of satellite data for disaster reduction by regional users.