Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and other SAARC nations will have access to free-of-cost remote sensing data collected by various satellites launched by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) during major disasters in the region.
“The modalities (of this arrangement) are being worked out which will be contingent on what exactly the participating countries would share and open up in lieu of having access to ISRO’s data,” said a senior home ministry official, adding that the in principle decision has been taken and would be ratified by the Union Cabinet in due course.
Experts from the SAARC countries were informed of this decision on Monday when they assembled here for a regional workshop on application of science and technology for disaster risk reduction management, inaugurated by Union home minister Shivraj Patil.
The official said since the satellite imaging of the region also involves the security concerns of the neighbouring countries, it would be discussed with each nation concerned. India has more than half a dozen operational remote sensing satellites in orbit covering the entire SAARC region.
The idea, as discussed in the workshop, is to use geo-informatics in risk-mapping, risk assessment and risk monitoring under diverse geographical, socio-economic and cultural settings. Indian experts specifically mentioned how remote sensing images taken even by commercial satellites clearly captured the tsunami along the eastern coast (2004), Kashmir earthquake (2005) and Bangladesh cyclone ‘Sidr’ (2007).
Experts felt that sharing of such data would not only help in assessing the actual damages/sufferings due to disasters but also help in improving transparency in relief and rehabilitation administration in the entire region.
During his inaugural address, the home minister also called upon the South Asian nations to use their strength in science and technology to build a robust system of prevention, mitigation and preparedness to reduce the risks of natural and man-made disasters.
Drawing attention of experts to the fact that various regions of the sub-continent are prone to earthquakes, Patil stressed the need for sustained scientific research on earthquake, particularly in the Himalayan region, so as to be able to identify the fault zones and the return period more accurately.
While discussing the issue, Indian experts later informed the participants about the possibility of using IIT, Roorkee, as a nucleus to form a thematic network in the region with a nodal agency in each SAARC country for sharing of information to deal with earthquakes.