ESCAP helps Pacific island nation of Palau use satellite technology for disaster preparedness

Government officials in Palau joined United Nations experts at a training workshop here on the use of satellite technology to improve the Pacific island nation’s preparedness for natural disasters that are a major threat to national physical and economic well-being.

The 3-5 August training workshop, organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in collaboration with the Government of the Republic of Palau, the Palau National Communication Corporation, the Pacific Island Telecommunications Associations and the Secretariat of Pacific Community (SPC), focused on how to use satellite imaging to enhance national disaster emergency response and risk reduction capacity.

Opening the workshop, H. E. Mr Kerai Mariur, Vice President and Minister of Finance, Republic of Palau, emphasized that disaster preparedness and response was crucial for Pacific island countries. “Due to our small geographical size and location we, like many other Pacific island countries remain vulnerable to natural and other disasters.”

Noting that satellite-based geographic information system (GIS) can be “very useful in saving lives in such critical times”, the minister expressed hope the workshop would improve the Republic of Palau’s ability to use geographically referenced data for quicker and more effective response to natural disasters.

Mr Xuan Zengpei, Director of the ESCAP Information and Communications Technology and Disaster Risk Reduction Division said the training workshop was organized in response to a request by the Government of the Republic of Palau during the 67th ESCAP Commission Session in May 2011 in Bangkok, Thailand.

A total of 14 participants from key government ministries and agencies including the National Emergency Management Office, the Palau National Communication Corporation and the the National Weather Service attended the training.

The three-day workshop covered topics including availability, access, usefulness and hands-on training of satellite imagery data, and products from experimental, research and thematic satellites which can be used for disaster response and emergency management in Palau.

The workshop requested ESCAP to facilitate the Republic of Palau’s access to satellite imagery as well as help develop the geo-referenced data base repository towards implementing the 2010 Palau National Disaster Risk Management Framework.

Priorities and actions identified at the workshop include building a national baseline imagery database, disaster risk reduction plans, a climate change response programme focused on sea level-rise, capacity-building, emergency communication plans and networking with Asian organizations and programmes.