In just five years, the partnership between the World Bank and the European Space Agency has shown that Earth observation is a critical ÛÒ and some would argue, indispensible ÛÒ tool in international development. The collaboration that began in 2008 with small-scale projects in Bangladesh, Peru/Bolivia, and Tunisia, has been expanded to cover a wide range of projects in more than 20 countries on three continents.
Access to satellite monitoring data is especially important in developing countries, says Zoubida Allaoua, a director in the World Bank’s Sustainable Development Network.
ÛÏOne of the most difficult tasks facing developing countries is how to monitor large areas with limited resources, she explained on an industry website. The use of satellite technology in our work is ground-breaking in its ability to track information across hundreds of thousands of kilometers, in a manner that’s highly reliable and cost effective but not intrusive.Û
After the initial success in 2008, the ESA decided in 2010 to fund a dozen projects.
The selected projects were:
The World Bank has cited several success stories from these projects. In the Mozambique Channel, 38 oil spills were detected ÛÒ allowing authorities to investigate the potential violations in near real-time. Also using satellite data, researchers determined that the Lake Titicaca Basin, a UNESCO World Heritage site, had diminished 7 percent in as many years due to wetland degradation.
ÛÏThis is the only existing (recent) land cover dataset of this specific area in Boliva/Peru,Û Marco Otto, chairman of climatology at the Technical University in Berlin, told a World Bank publication. ÛÏIt is an invaluable resource for detailed research on vegetation dynamics and land-cover change within this data sparse region, which faces many future challenges in climate and resource management.Û
The future for the partnership looks bright. By 2020, 20 new ESA satellites are expected to be in orbit, monitoring development project around the world.
ÛÏThe new ESA missions will be part of the biggest Earth observation program ever developed,Û said Maurice Borgeaud, head of ESA’s Department of Science Applications and Future Technologies Department.åÊ “And it will be supported by a free and open data policy.Û