Satellite imaging for developing countries

Developing countries need better access to space technology to help manage their natural resources and prevent disasters, an international conference has been warned.

Speakers at the recent regional workshop on the use of space technology for natural resources management, environmental monitoring and disaster management, staged by the United Nations’ Office for Outer Space Affairs, European Space Agency and the Sudanese government, appealed for assistance in acquiring the software and technical know-how to interpret satellite images.

Edwin Haule, principal forest officer of Tanzania’s ministry of natural resources and tourism, said despite the obvious value of geo-spatial surveys of forests and woodlands, such studies were rare. There is a big gap between developed and least developed countries in the application of space science and technologies.

Haule told delegates that space analyses could enable his officials to assess growing woodlands by species and site classification, helping them to stem a national deforestation rate of between 90,000 and 500,000 hectares a year.

The need for more space monitoring was also underlined by Sudanese speakers, such as Ali Ayoub, of the Ahfad University for Women. He highlighted the use of images to assess the drift of desert sands into fertile Nile bank zones. This drift is breaking up a dune system that had been stable since the late Pleistocene period, but is now ‘alarmingly intruded into agricultural areas’.

Mustafa Yousif, of the Sudan’s wadis and water resources directorate, stressed satellite imaging technology’s effectiveness in helping assess the extent of subterranean groundwater reserves. And Haroun Abdalla, of the Sudan Meteorological Authority, saw the value of the upcoming EU Envisat system. He said effective weather warnings could help his country prepare for freak floods.