UN Promotes the Use of Satellites to Combat Disasters in Asia and the Pacific

The Asia-Pacific region has been the victim of some of the most devastating disasters in human history. Over the last ten years, six out of ten of the most deadly natural disasters occurred within the region.

To help prepare the countries of the region for future disasters, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) is organizing a Regional Symposium on Disaster Management to explore ways of effectively utilizing information collected from Earth observation satellites. High-level officials from the national disaster management authorities of 22 countries are participating in the Symposium, which opened wednesday 19 March and run until 21 March at the United Nations Conference Centre (UNCC) in Bangkok.

In his address at the opening session, Mr. Shigeru Mochida, Deputy Executive Secretary of ESCAP, stated that the Asia-Pacific region “accounted for over 74 per cent of the estimated 21,000 causalities from natural disasters in the world in 2006, and eight ESCAP member countries are ranked in the top 10 countries most hit by natural disasters”.

Mr. Mochida noted that “effective disaster management relies greatly on effective information management. Relevant and timely information is indispensable to supporting decision-making on risk assessment, mitigation planning, monitoring and early warning, and rescue and relief activities”. He added that information collected from satellites could be a major contributor to improve the effectiveness and timeliness of disaster management.

ESCAP is working closely with a regional initiative, Sentinel Asia, which was initiated by Asia-Pacific Regional Space Agency Forum (APRSAF) to share disaster information and to make better use of earth observation satellites data for disaster management in the Asia-Pacific region. Mr. Kaoru Mamiya, Vice President of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), which is supporting the Symposium, noted in his opening statement that Sentinel Asia has responded to 17 emergency observation requests made by countries from the region since October 2006.