Use of Space-Based Information to Reduce Disaster Risk in Asia-Pacific Region Receives a Boost

The use of space-based information and services to help reduce the risk of disasters in the Asia-Pacific region received a boost today with a collaboration agreement between the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).
At a ceremony held during the 15th meeting of the Asia-Pacific Regional Space Agency Forum (APRSAF-15), on 12 December 2008, in Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam, representatives of the two organizations signed a Memorandum of Understanding which will see them expand their cooperation and collaboration in promoting the use of space-based information and services – such as satellite imagery, remote sensing and satellite-based communications – for disaster risk reduction and disaster management in Asia and the Pacific.
The signing ceremony was attended by Dr. Keiji Tachikawa, the President of JAXA, and Mr. Shigeru Mochida, ESCAP’s Deputy Executive Secretary.
“Although some of ESCAP’s member countries are advanced in the integration of such satellite information and services into their disaster response systems, other countries – in particular least-developed countries – are not equipped to analyse and use the data even if it is available and government officials are aware of the benefits,” said Mr. Mochida at the signing ceremony.
The agreement paves the way for JAXA and ESCAP to scale up assistance to ESCAP’s member states, bringing the benefits of space-based information and services closer to the region’s disaster management authorities and people at large, so that countries will be able to respond to disaster situations more effectively and plan and implement evidence-based disaster responses in a timely manner.
JAXA and ESCAP have been working closely in past years in promoting the use of space based information and services through regional cooperation mechanisms. Results of this collaboration have included Sentinel Asia, initiated by APRSAF in 2005, which provides satellite images to disaster-affected areas upon request. In November, 2008, Sentinel Asia assisted Thailand and Viet Nam with the monitoring of floods. In addition, in March this year, ESCAP and JAXA organized the Regional Symposium on Regional Disaster Management Support System - Satellite Information Access Mechanism, in Bangkok.