United Nations supports flood crisis management in Thailand with real-time satellite data

Responding to a request from the Government of Thailand, the United Nations, working with international partners, is enabling national disaster management authorities to have more frequent access to satellite imagery capturing flood wave dynamics for improved monitoring of and response to the country’s worst flooding in decades.

During a visit this week to the government’s Flood Relief Operations Command (FROC) at the Don Muang airport in Bangkok, Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the senior most United Nations official in the Asia-Pacific region, met Thai Prime Minister H.E. Yingluck Shinawatra to express the world body’s solidarity with the country at this difficult time.

Expressing support for the response of Thai authorities to the flood, Dr. Heyzer reiterated the firm commitment of the United Nations to supporting the country’s ongoing flood relief and rehabilitation efforts, followed up by resilient recovery from this unprecedented disaster.

The United Nations Asia-Pacific chief emphasized that ESCAP and the nearly 30 United Nations agencies and entities based in Bangkok were ready to support Government efforts to formulate a long-term response to the crisis, beyond the present emergency situation.

During the meeting with Dr. Heyzer, the Prime Minister expressed interest in obtaining access to real-time international satellite imagery of the floods in Thailand. Accordingly, ESCAP initiated multi-pronged strategies starting from collaboration with international partners to provide near real-time satellite data to improve the quality of flood monitoring in Thailand, to networking and partnership building for regular access to satellite data and long-term capacity development for disaster risk management in the country.

Working with the regional satellite-based disaster information monitoring network Sentinel Asia, the International Charter Space and Major Disasters – supported by a dozen major world space agencies and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), ESCAP is enabling Thailand’s Geo-informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (GISTDA), which is supporting FROC information management, to access near real-time flood data from the global constellation of earth observation satellites.

The international support is helping GISTDA access satellite data more frequently, including from commercial satellites, for monitoring the socio-economic damage caused by the floods.

The ESCAP initiative in response to the Thai Government’s request supplements ESCAP collaboration with the International Centre for Water Hazard and Risk Management (ICHARM) in Japan in providing assistance for better flood risk management in Asia and the Pacific. A joint ESCAP-ICHARM expert team is to conduct a field survey in Thailand next month.