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MERIS data for African water concerns

Lusaka, Zambia, August 3, 2007: As part of the IWAREMA (Integrated Water Resource management for Zambia) project, funded through ESA’s Data User Element, data from ESA’s multispectral MERIS (MEdium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer) sensor aboard Envisat was used to create maps depicting existing water resources, suitable dam locations and land cover for water related issues. The project is carried out by the Belgium Company GIM (Geographic Information Management) in partnership with the University of Zambia and the Zambian water authorities.

The project focused on the Kafue River Basin, which is a sub-basin of the Zambezi River. The Kafue Basin is of great importance to the country’s economy and is home to more than half of the country’s population. The rate of urbanisation has been unprecedented and has therefore exceeded the rate of infrastructure development and service provision, such as water supply and sanitation.

Land cover and water resource maps generated from the data will allow authorities to determine the expansion of urban areas and loss of forest and agricultural areas as well as calculate the risk of erosion, change in water availability and percentage of surface water, which will allow for early flood warnings. The land cover change maps will also help the government look at past trends in terms of deforestation, reclaimed land and new settlement areas to determine the long term affect and implement corrective measures.

IWAREMA was one of the projects initiated under ESA’s TIGER initiative, launched in 2002 to assist African countries to overcome water-related problems and to bridge Africa’s water information gap using satellite data. To date, more than 100 African water basin authorities, universities and other organisations have become involved in TIGER projects across the continent.