Harnessing modern technology and increasing regional cooperation in disaster preparedness could save lives and help prevent some of the billions of dollars in property damage each year across Asia and the Pacific, United Nations officials stressed today at a meeting in Bangkok.
“Many lives could be saved and tragedy mitigated, if effective disaster management measures are undertaken,” Kim Hak-Su, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), said in an opening address to the UN Regional Workshop on the Use of Space Technology for Disaster Management.
The five-day Workshop, co-organized by ESCAP and the Vienna-based UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA), has attracted 130 participants from 32 countries. A number of representatives from other UN agencies, intergovernmental organizations and various national and regional institutions are also attending.
These experts are sharing their knowledge and experience in using space and satellite technology to prepare for and respond to natural and man made disasters.
According to UN officials, from January to September, natural catastrophes in the world have cost countries and communities an estimated $56 billion. The Asia-Pacific region has been one of the worst hit, accounting for half of the world’s major emergencies.
During the last five months, more than 20 countries have endured serious flooding, resulting in the deaths of 2,300 people, and forcing 16 million people from their homes. In Thailand alone, the floods affected 7 million acres of farmland and 80,000 people needed treatment for water-borne, flood related, illnesses, according to Pinij Jarusombat, Minister of Science and Technology of the Royal Thai Government.
ESCAP recently established a new Information, Communication and Space Technology Division, and the secretariat has also been active, in cooperation with the World Meteorology Organization (WMO), in successfully promoting the establishment of the Typhoon Committee and the ESCAP/WMO Panel on Tropical Cyclones.