UK satellites to help monitor ASEAN forest fires

The UK Space Agency will use satellite imagery and earth observation data to help countries in Asia tackle forest fires, dengue and illegal fishing, it was announced.

Through its International Partnership Programme, the agency works with governments all over the world to improve disaster response or infectious disease management, for example.

In Indonesia and Malaysia, the agency will use satellites to map dry peat conditions, as forest fires often occur over drained peatland areas. With data on water levels in the peatlands, authorities can make decisions to mitigate the risk of fires.

Another project under the partnership will monitor dengue outbreaks in Vietnam. It will be possible to predict the likelihood of future dengue epidemics by linking earth observation data with climate forecasting and land surface data. The project will also be able to provide dengue forecasts under various climate change scenarios.

A third project will use satellite data to understand the location, time and behaviour of specific vessels at sea in the Philippines, in an effort to tackle illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

The agency has set aside a total of £11 million (US$15.3 million) for these three projects in particular. It will be funding ten projects altogether, totalling £38 million (US$ 52.9 million). They include an initiative in Colombia to monitor illegal gold mining; a project to help herders in Mongolia to build resilience against extreme weather; and an effort to monitor dam failures in Peru.

“The UK Space Agency’s International Partnership Programme will help developing countries tackle big issues like disaster relief and disease control, while showcasing the services and technology on offer from our leading space businesses,” UK Minister for Universities, Science, Research & Innovation Sam Gyimah said in a statement.

One existing project under the programme has helped to reduce the impact of natural disasters in the Philippines. A public-private partnership between the Philippines government and a satellite communications provider was called into action in December and January, when tropical storms killed hundreds of people and displaced tens of thousands more to evacuation centres.

Satellite image of Sampit, Indonesia from ESA

Author: EARSC

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