ESA Banks on Multilateral Agencies to Open New Frontiers

ESA Banks on Multilateral Agencies to Open New Frontiers


European Space Agency seeks partnership with international development stakeholders for innovative solutions to address the sustainable development challenge

Earth observation information provides key contributions to the planning, implementation and monitoring of large international development projects. The European Space Agency (ESA) has been collaborating with multilateral development banks (MDBs) since 2008 to demonstrate the value of such information to specific projects being carried out in developing countries.

Multilateral development banks provide technical and financial support to developing countries to reduce poverty and stimulate economic growth. This involves dealing with the complex challenges of climate change, rapid urbanisation, threats to food security, natural resource depletion and the risk of natural disasters. The provision of accurate and consistent geospatial information is a key component, and the world is looking towards development banks to bring the best available datasets to support strategic planning and to deliver quality solutions to the countries around the world.

ESA began working with the MDBs through three smallscale technical assistance demonstration projects for the World Bank in 2008. The trials demonstrated the use of earth observation-based services to support climate change adaptation projects in Belize (coral reefs), Bangladesh (coastal dynamics) and North Africa (land subsidence).

The success of the early pilots resulted in the scaling up of the collaboration with the World Bank in 2010 to include 12 small-scale demonstration activities and the launch of a joint ‘Earth Observation for Development’ initiative, branded as ‘eoworld’. The 12 activities were spread across the World Bank’s Sustainable Development Network and carried out in over 20 countries in Latin America, Africa, South and East Asia in the following thematic areas: climate change adaptation, disaster risk management, urban development, water resources management, coastal zone management, marine environment management, agriculture and forestry.

In parallel (and building on the experiences with the World Bank), ESA began widening collaboration with additional banks. Further 10 demonstration projects were completed with the European Investment Bank (EIB), and eight demonstration projects were completed with International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). In addition, ESA is planning to launch a new collaboration with the Asian Development Bank to support 12 projects.

Laguna lake Philippines ecosystem Valuation of Ecosystems Services in Philippines
The Government of Philippines and the World Bank aim to construct two ecosystem accounts using the SEEA (System of Environmental-Economic Accounting ) experimental ecosystem accounting methodology — one for Southern Palawan (around Bataraza) and one for the Laguna Lake Basin. Data demands for the construction of ecosystem accounts are extensive and require spatially referenced data that would allow study of not only the current condition of the ecosystem, but also how it changes over time. Remote sensing data is essential for this task to provide not only detailed spatial information, but also to fill quality and information gaps in existing data. In addition, it would provide a unique opportunity to demonstrate the uses of EO data when using the SEEA methodology. The timeline for the project is January 2014 to December 2014.

These initiatives are being carried out through ESA programmes, together with the European and Canadian Earth Observation Services Industry (mainly small companies). These are specialist suppliers that are in a world-leading position in terms of diversity and maturity of products and services. ESA can therefore be a key partner to international development stakeholders that are seeking innovative solutions to address the sustainable development challenge.

The initial results have helped identify the potential of further exploiting EO information within Global Programmes and Partnerships (GPPs), managed by the development banks. GPPs are important because they play a key role in creating and sharing knowledge (particularly on environmental issues), and in mobilising financial and technical resources of a larger community of donor organisations, as well as public and private stakeholders. Discussions are in progress to explore the potential of EO with the two new World Bank initiatives: the Global Partnership for Oceans (GPO) and the Wealth Accounting and the Valuation of Ecosystem Services (WAVES).

Why EO for international development?
Public attention towards the changing impact of environment is increasing these days. For international development, this translates into promoting economic growth in an environmentally sustainable manner (so-called ‘green growth’). In this context, EO can be a valuable source of information for assessing environmental impact.

EO is an important and often unique source of information for management and protection of key ecosystems to counteract over-exploitation of resources. This includes desertification, land degradation, support to sustainable agriculture and biodiversity conservation. In the same way, EO capabilities also extend to marine and coastal ecosystems to mitigate the negative impacts of both natural and human-induced changes on sensitive habitats.

Growing population is putting an increasing pressure on major urban areas. Recent advances in image classification have greatly increased the use of very high spatial resolution satellites for detailed urban mapping. EO is being used for operational monitoring of urban development with comprehensive, accurate, up-to-date geographical information to understand how cities are evolving over time at local, regional and global levels. Some 15 types of information layers are available including mapping of continuous urban fabric, informal settlement areas and slums, green vegetation and surface water, as well as impervious surface material. Furthermore, new EO techniques for precision measurements of land motion and building subsidence are being widely used.

Tracking Land Movement in Jakarta
Land subsidence map of JakartaIn Jakarta, pumping water from deep wells (100 metres or deeper) causes the land to sink by as much as 10 cm a year. Earth observation offers a unique insight into past trends as well as state-of-the-art tools for monitoring the present and future terrain deformations.

Project: In support of a World Bank project, Altamira Information (Spain) together with ITB Bandung Institute of Technology (Jakarta) gathered very high resolution COSMO-SkyMed data over a six months period from October 2010 to April 2011 which yielded very high spatial and temporal density of measurements in the specific constructed areas. Together with high resolution ALOS archived data from January 2007 to end of February 2011 information concerning terrain motion of higher amplitude over the period of 4 years was derived. Data were processed through the Persistent Scatterer Interferometry (PS-InSAR) technique.

Result: The EO results revealed that the South Center of Jakarta and a suburban district are affected by strong subsidence rates. In the Jakarta Bay where a system of sea walls, water draining channels and water reservoirs protecting the land from sea flooding are located, the maximal detected subsidence rate is more than -15 cm/yr, resulting in a deformation of more than -60cm over the period of 4 years.

Outlook: The precise assessment of subsidence trends enhanced an on-going World Bank dialogue with DKI (Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta or Special Capital City District of Jakarta) and the National Agency for Disaster Management (BNPB) and prompted the creation of a national-level community of practice with local authorities and agencies responsible for the management of the urban areas affected by subsidence.

EO is also used extensively to support risk management and disaster reduction, as well as crisis mapping including post-disaster recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction. Within the Committee for Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS), ESA was a founding member of the International Charter ‘Space and Major Disasters’, which has provided, over the last 10 years, rapid access to earth observation data and information in support of aid relief from natural disasters to national and international disaster relief organisations worldwide. The Reduction of Emissions from De-forestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) and the sustainable forestry sector is a key area of support by the international development community. EO has been used extensively for forest mapping since the beginning of the satellite monitoring era in the early Eighties. ESA has been working to strengthen the use of EO for forest mapping in support of REDD and is a leading organisation within CEOS where, along with other space agencies, it supports the Forest Carbon Tracking System and the Global Forest Observing Initiative.

Gambia rice paddies as seen by radar satellites at 3m resolutionAgricultural Mapping in Gambia
International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is working with the Gambian government on development projects that will focus on the poor rural population and their participation in local government to implement strategies to improve agricultural production.

Project: ESA is working with the Swiss company Sarmap in mapping Gambia from space with radar. The aim of this is to establish baselines, understand current agricultural practices and document inter-annual changes. Sarmap, ESA and UN–IFAD are also working with local communities. The local people are involved in collecting crop information for validation of the space-based maps.

Result: Land-cover maps and maps of rice crop production patterns have been produced.

User Feedback: “It is pleasing to see the remarkable progress from the launch of this pilot a few months ago. In the case of The Gambia, timing is relevant as the expected results will show the impact of PIWAMP’s intervention in rice production since the beginning of the project as well as provide relevant data to complement the RIMS baseline survey for the newly started project, Nema. One of the important outcome from this initiative is to contribute to enhancing IFAD’s evidence-based policy dialogue in mobilising incremental resources from both government and other donors to invest more in smallholder agriculture to boast sustained pro-poor economic growth. Hopefully, the impact of this initiative would be demonstrated through the transfer of skills and building of local capacities in the use and application of this technology and the proposed in-country capacity building workshop is expected to fulfil this,” said Ides de Willebois, Director of IFAD’s West and Central Africa Division.

Finally capacity-building in the use of EO information in developing countries is key to international development. ESA partners with main user communities to ensure that EO information services and products can be used to respond to real environmental sustainability needs. The on-going activities are TIGER, an initiative supporting African institutions in managing water resources; and the GLOB projects, delivering a range of global satellite information in support of international environmental treaties and conventions.

Operational environmental information
ESA’s current and planned technological capabilities place Europe at the forefront of EO. In the next decade, ESA plans to launch more than 25 new EO satellites, which will provide an enormous wealth of new data to be exploited by the scientific as well as operational user communities.

This includes the most ambitious, operational EO programme in the world — Copernicus, being developed in partnership with the EU. This system will combine data from the world’s biggest fleet of EO satellites and from thousands of in-situ sensors to provide timely, reliable and operational information services covering land, marine, atmosphere and cryosphere environments, and emergency response.

Preparations for adapting to this vast amount of information are in place in Europe for public sector users (mainly government agencies). However, the data will be available globally, and the potential for new applications with new user communities operating outside of Europe in the international development sector is evident.

The challenge now is to establish a stable connection between existing and upcoming European EO capabilities and the leading institutional players in sustainable development to exploit synergies with funding programmes behind them. The existing partnerships with the MDBs are a start to building a comprehensive approach towards this new user community, taking advantage of ESA’s three decades’ of experience in developing EO-based applications. The long-term aim is to promote the use of earth observation as a standard reference tool for environmental information and a component of ‘best-practices’ in the planning, implementation, monitoring and assessment of future international development programmes, projects and initiatives.