A new initiative of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia will grant the Cambodian government access to images and data collected by Thai and Chinese weather satellites that can be used to predict natural disasters, a Unescap officer said Wednesday.
According to the final draft plan for the Regional Cooperative Mechanism on Drought Monitoring and Early Warning, released on Saturday, the program will give developing countries currently unavailable data to forecast extreme weather.
“Satellite imagery will help us provide farmers with an early warnings for drought and weather,” said National Committee for Disaster Management Senior Technical Officer Bunnavuth Ku
An NCDM officer will serve as the program’s Cambodian focal point, receiving images and data and sharing information obtained by the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, Mr Ku said, adding that Cambodia has no space-based imaging technology.
While the program has no designated satellites, participant countries including Thailand, China and India will begin providing data they collect to member countries through an information portal next year, said Timothy Loh, an officer with Unescap’s Space Applications Section.
“Requesting for aid earlier, and getting it before disaster happens, will be one of the significant opportunities accurate monitoring and early warning provides,” said Mr Loh by e-mail.
Earlier this week, officials from the Ministry of Land Management underwent a training program hosted by Asian Disaster Reduction Center on how to read satellite images of the flooding currently affecting Pursat province provided by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
Water Resources Ministry Cabinet chief Chan Youttha said on Wednesday that Cambodia hopes to launch its first satellite over the next three years, but currently works predominantly with outdated equipment.
“We are using mostly old instrument from the Republic of Kampuchea,” said Mr Youttha.
According to a Water Resources Ministry report released in April, the government operates 20 weather centers nationwide, only nine of which have automated machinery of any kind. The report said workers at the centers make observations at midnight, 6 am, noon and 6 pm, enter them into a log, then phone in or fax the data to the ministry.