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‘EO satellites can mitigate disasters’

South Africa: Earth-observing (EO) satellites can provide vital information to mitigate and prepare for disasters, observed panellists at mapping global risk conference held in Cape Town, South Africa. The conference was organised by the World Bank’s Global Facility for Disaster Risk and Recovery.

The importance of EO satellites for improving knowledge of hazards and risks came into focus at the Forum’s Earth Observation session chaired by ESA alongside the South Africa National Space Agency.

Discussions concentrated on how satellite earth observation can support scientists and operational users for a range of applications. This is the case for disaster prevention and preparedness, as well as the immediate response phase in areas affected by natural disasters.

The session gave the opportunity to unveil the final results of the two-year collaboration between the earth observation directorate of ESA and the World Bank that focuses on mainstreaming earth observation services and applications to support the international development community in a range of global risk management activities.
 Satellite earth observation is one of the pillars of the disaster risk management practice at the World Bank.

For instance, in the event of natural disasters, 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.
In the next few years, the ESA Sentinel satellites will be launched as part of the joint EU–ESA initiative on Global Monitoring of the Environment and Security (GMES) programme.
To raise awareness and demonstrate the capabilities of earth observation further, ESA has set up five urban risk assessment pilot studies in collaboration with the World Bank.

They include urban mapping and thematic mapping to support risk assessment for 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.

Source: ESA