The risk of natural disasters can be reduced by a deeper understanding of our environment and the fundamental forces that shape it. Earth-observing satellites can provide vital information to better prepare for disasters and reduce their impact on people and property.
Collected data can be used in many high risk areas around the world to support risk assessments for a range of hazards from hydro-meteorological risks to geo-hazards such as landslides and terrain subsidence.
The importance of Earth-observing satellites for improving knowledge of hazards and risks came into focus at the Understanding Risk Forum on mapping global risk held in Cape Town, South Africa on July 2-6, 2012. The Forum was organised by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery.
Earth Observation session was chaired by ESA alongside the South Africa National Space Agency. The session brought together the National Hydrological Services of Namibia, the Regional Centre for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development, and the World Bank.
Discussions concentrated on how satellite observation can support scientists and operational users for a range of applications. This is the case for disaster prevention and preparedness, as well as for the immediate response phase in areas affected by natural disasters.
The use of EO for disaster risk management at the World Bank
The session gave an opportunity to unveil the results of a two-year collaboration between the Earth Observation Programmes directorate of the European Space Agency (ESA) and the World Bank. This cooperation focuses on mainstreaming Earth observation services and applications to help the international development community in a range of global risk management activities.
Satellite Earth observation is one of the key pillars of the disaster risk management practice at the World Bank. For instance, in the event of a natural disaster, satellite data are used to support large-scale emergency recovery programmes through a post disaster needs assessment.
Satellite information is also increasingly included in risk mitigation and climate change adaptation programmes in a broad range of situations, such as costal lowland subsidence and flood defence.
To further raise awareness and demonstrate the capabilities of Earth observation, ESA has set up five urban risk assessment pilot studies implemented in collaboration with the World Bank. They include urban mapping and thematic mapping to support risk assessment concerning hazards such as flooding, terrain subsidence, and landslides in Tunis, Alexandria, Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Rio de Janeiro, Ho Chi Minh City, and Guyana’s capital city, Georgetown. This is part of an overall ESA initiative to demonstrate the potential of Earth observation services to support the operations of multilateral development banks such as World Bank, the European Investment Bank, the African Development Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, among others.
In the next few years, ESA Sentinel satellites to be launched, as part of the joint EU-ESA initiative on Global Monitoring of the Environment and Security (GMES), will significantly improve the availability of such environmental information services and allow increased use of EO information on an operational basis.
Session 10 Satellite EO and Disaster Risk Management
Wednesday, July 4, 2012
Philippe Bally, European Space Agency (ESA) Jane Olwoch, South African Space Agency (SANSA)