Satellites Becoming Vital to International Development

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Envisat Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (ASAR) of the Mekong Delta, Vietnam. Image Credit: EOWorld.

Envisat Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (ASAR) of the Mekong Delta, Vietnam. Image Credit: EOWorld.

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:

1. Monitoring of Environmentally Sensitive Areas in the Mozambique Channel

2. Forest Resources Management in Liberia

3. Monitoring of Coastal Vulnerability and Coastal Change Trends in West Africa

4. Watershed Mapping and Water Resources Management Prioritization for the Zambezi River Basin, southern Africa

5. Analysis of Land Subsidence in the Agglomeration of Jakarta, Indonesia

6. Building Exposure Maps of Urban Infrastructure and Crop Fields in the Mekong River Basin, Vietnam

7.åÊ EO Support to Multi-Hazard Vulnerability Assessment in Vietnam and Indonesia

8. Support to Sustainable Oil Palm Production in Papua New Guinea

9.åÊ Monitoring of Water Quality and Land Use Changes in the Lake Titicaca Basin, Peru and Bolivia

10. Assessing Vulnerability in the Metropolitan Area of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

11. Satellite Tools for Building Flood Defense Systems in Guyana

12. Historical Assessment of Spatial Growth of Built-ups and Metropolitan areas of Delhi and Mumbai in India, and Dhaka in Bangladesh.

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