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Earth Observation for Development

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A partnership program of the World Bank and the European Space Agency

Satellite data can enable Bank teams to assess disaster risk, study water resources, forecast manifestations of climate change, monitor the state of agricultural and natural resources, measure city growth, and carry out many other assessments a valuable tool to help achieve the mission of the Bank.

With the increasing prevalence of Earth Observation (EO) – or remote sensing – technologies being employed in development work, the World Bank and the European Space Agency (ESA) are now partnering for the purpose of mainstreaming the use of EO into the World Bank's lending operations, across all of the Bank's Sustainable Development Network's sectors.

In July 2010, through a competitive process, twelve World Bank teams from across a variety of sectors and representing all regions were selected and will receive the pro-bono assistance of ESA to apply Earth Observation services in selected operations (sectors benefitting include disaster risk management, water resources management, urban development, agriculture and forestry, natural resources management, and climate change).

Benefits of Earth Observation

EO services are potentially useful tools in providing a wide range of environmental information to support the monitoring and management of World Bank projects. The particular advantages of EO in this context are:

  • Access to historical information that can be compared to the current status (through the archives),
  • Access to an information technology for which there is long-term continuity for the past and future decades.

The EO-based information allows World Bank teams and our stakeholders to:

  • Check the progress and environmental impact of Bank projects at the regional and global scale;
  • Establish projects’ baseline from the satellite archive, against which changes can be detected and offset measures can be determined;
  • Identify “hot spot” regions, which would require further attention and field surveys;
  • Support a dialogue with local stakeholders (often with divergent views) by putting environmental issues in a spatial context, in a consistent and objective manner.

EO assessments can be undertaken at varying spatial scales from local to global and provide access to information that is non-intrusive, objective and consistent around the globe, thus providing global data sets to address global problems. EO can also provide long-term continuity to data sets allowing for temporal as well as spatial analysis to be undertaken.

The first small-scale demonstrations were provided through ESA at no cost to the Bank in the areas of: coastal zone management (Bangladesh), marine ecosystems (Belize), urban development and climate change (Egypt), and water resources management (Peru/Bolivia).


Earth Observation Support to World Bank Projects "Progress Report" Released 

EO support to WB projects, report cover


Related Content

eoworld Projects Schedule

Services Readiness Review Meeting, April 12 

Winning Applications for Earth Observation Services Selected



Bangladesh Coastal Zone Management Project

Earth Observation for Development – World Bank Task Manager 


Useful Links

European Space Agency 

European Association of Remote Sensing Companies



Anna Burzykowska at: aburzykowska@

Anthony Bigio at:

Henry Jewell at:


Last updated: 2012-01-04

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