Sunday, October 23, 2011

Philippines Need High Resolution Satellite Imaging

THE Office of Civil Defense and the National Mapping and Resource Information Agency presented to the Senate Tuesday an P8-billion proposal for a high resolution satellite imaging of the country’s terrain to boost the government’s risk and disaster management plan.

Mapping agency chief Peter Tiangco said proactive approach in disaster management cannot be achieved without a geographic information system to simulate earthquake, typhoon, flood, landslide and other risk factors.

“We need to simulate risk factors particular to specific areas to come out with disaster mitigation and preventive measures,” Tiangco told the Senate committee on natural resources hearing.

Civil Defense Undersecretary Benito Ramos said the government uses dated topographic and geologic data as basis for critical studies to implement a nationwide mitigation plan.

“(The only geologic) studies are only available in Surigao provinces and these were obtained from mining companies operating there,” Ramos said.

Tiangco said maps currently available were based on cartography surveys done 50 years ago when so many natural and man made alterations have happened to accurately depict the topography and geologic state of cities and municipalities.

Ramos said that topographic features in the national cartography have been updated using satellites (Global positioning system) but such an update was inadequate to predict geologic behaviors that may occur during natural disasters.

“As simple as the rising seal levels, we are guessing now in our identification of low-lying areas because those that were high and dry last year becomes under water, with devastating effect, the next year,” he said.

GPS can ascertain where exactly rivers and mountains and other features are situated but elevations, depths and other intrinsic features of the country’s terrain have to be surveyed and computed manually.

“It’s a tedious process and with the rate of climate change and natural disasters hitting the country every year, surveys get to be over taken by events and instantly get outdated,” he said.

Tiangco said river siltation alone would be crucial in estimating amount of flooding that can occur that accurate data were critical.

“We’re not talking about natural siltation, we have to factor in millions of tons of garbage finding its way into water systems. Liquefaction is also an important phenomenon we need to watch out for to guess where the next landslide will come. All of that, multiplied by forest denudation and how fast these things happen are very important for us to know.” Tiangco said.

Both OCD and NAMRIA urged Congress to fund a geographic information system of 3-dimensional satellite image of the country and a spatial data infrastructure that disaster simulations can be made for a more reliable preparedness program.

Tianco said the proposed data base will also be necessary for national infrastructure planning.

SOURCE: Manila Standard Today


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