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UN-OOSA Emphasises Role of Satellite Technology in disaster reduction

On 12 October, the United Nations observed the International Day for
Natural Disaster Reduction, which is held annually on the second
Wednesday in October.

An important but not very widely known aspect of natural disaster
reduction is the role played by space technology. Making the benefits
of space technology, in particular satellite applications, available to
all countries, including developing nations, in order to mitigate the
devastation caused by natural disasters, is one of the activities of
the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA).
Remote sensing by satellite of the area
afflicted by a disaster (such as a flood, storm or earthquake) can
provide information needed to assess the extent of damage caused, and
forecast the expected further spread of the disaster to other areas, as
well as provide vital information for search and rescue operations.
Satellite technology can also be used to enable communication in the
affected area if on-ground infrastructure has collapsed. Such solutions
are already an integral part of disaster management activities in many
developed and even developing countries. Within the framework of the
United Nations Programme on Space Applications, OOSA has held several
workshops on the use of space technology for disaster management, to
incorporate the use of space technologies into operational disaster
management programmes around the world.
Following the devastating earthquake of
7.6-magnitude on the Richter scale, that struck Pakistan, India and
Afghanistan last Saturday, pre- and post-disaster satellite images of
the afflicted area are being made available for rescue efforts by the
United Nations through the International Charter Space and Major
Disasters, which aims at providing a unified system of space data
acquisition and delivery, through authorised users, to those affected
by natural or man-made disasters.
OOSA‘s status as a co-operating body to
the International Charter since August 2003, has enabled the UN system,
by means of a permanent hotline set up by OOSA, to request data from
seven satellite operators through the Charter in response to emergency
situations. The Charter has been activated 21 times by the United
Nations since August 2003, for floods and landslides in China, the
Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Guyana, Haiti, Kenya, Namibia, Nepal,
Pakistan and the Philippines, for hurricane and typhoon aftermaths in
Grenada, Haiti and the Philippines, for earthquakes in Afghanistan,
India, Iran and Morocco, a train disaster in North Korea, the Indian
Ocean tsunami and most recently for the floods and landslides in
Central America following Hurricane Stan and for the earthquake in the
India-Pakistan border region.
In 2001, the United Nations General
Assembly decided to observe the International Day for Natural Disaster
Reduction as a vehicle to promote a global culture of natural disaster
reduction – including disaster prevention, mitigation and preparedness.
Such a global culture would significantly reduce the dramatic
visibility of relief efforts and the loss of lives and livelihoods due
to natural disasters.
The United Nations Office for Outer Space
Affairs (OOSA) implements the decisions of the General Assembly and of
the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and its two
Subcommittees, the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee and the Legal
Subcommittee. The Office is responsible for promoting international
co-operation in the peaceful uses of outer space, and assisting
developing countries in using space science and technology.
(Credits UN-OOSA and spaceref)