IPCC WGII Summary for Policy Makers says that observational evidence from all continents and most oceans shows that many natural systems are being affected by regional climate changes, particularly temperature increases. This is an alarming situation requiring continuous observation of climatic parameters to keep abreast with the changes of global climatic situation. Further, timely and continuous observation of impacts on natural environment in all the scales; local, regional and global, too plays an important role to bring in appropriate natural resources management strategies and defining and implementing better adaptation methods reducing risks.
Asia-pacific with more than 2/3 of world population faces a huge threat with increase of natural disaster which could be due to the present changes in the global climatic situation as identified in IPCC reports where anthropogenic influence further escalates the intensity of disasters. Therefore, it is utmost important to monitor climatic parameters as well as possible effects related to such changes where satellite remote sensing can play an important role.
Given the diversified data requirement and unavailability of continuous and long-term data sharing mechanism in the Asia-pacific region use of satellite data is becoming vital and essential to understand various local, regional and global changes of the environment. The environment monitoring is important to track the threat to our society with the increase of various natural disasters and some of the disasters that could be related to present climatic changes are;
- Glacier lake outbreaks threatening several thousand resident living in the mountain regions of Hindu-Kush Himalaya,
- Record-breaking drought reducing 30% or more cereal harvesting leading to serious food shortage, daily life water shortage,
- Sea-level rise increasing the risk of water inundation over coastal region and small islands,
- Forest fire risk and related human health problems,
- Expansion of communicable disease such as malaria
Every country as well as number of international organizations including United Nations are working hard to bring in appropriate solution to prevent these hazards or ways to adopt to this ever increasing threats to mankind. It is well documented that long-term monitoring of environmental changes is one of the key factor in realizing appropriate solution to this global problem.
In this context satellite remote sensing could play a significant role to provide continuous, regional to global, timely, and low cost data and information for each and every country to start their own monitoring system that could help appropriate solution in local context. Currently, many Asia-Pacific countries have planned or invested in monitoring activities by using of remote sensing whilst some of them have already launched or planned to launch their own earth observation satellites targeting long-term environment monitoring.
The Asia-Pacific Space Agency Forum (APRSAF) was established in 1993, to enhance the development of each country’s space program and to exchange views toward future cooperation. (For details, http://www.aprsaf.org/). Through the discussion in APRSAF, Sentinel Asia was born in 2005. This is a voluntary and best-efforts-basis initiative to share disaster information in the Asia-Pacific region on Web-GIS platform and to make the best use of earth observation satellites data for disaster risk management in the Asia-Pacific region. With the support of number of space agencies and more than 50 disaster related agencies in the region, Sentinel Asia is one of the real operating system that support to proper use of satellite data in emergency response. (For details, http://dmss.tksc.jaxa.jp/sentinel/)
Having initiated as a joint and voluntary activity of APRSAF members recognizing the benefits of Sentinel Asia, further discussion were carried out to find a solution for environmental monitoring in long-term scale. As a result of these discussions, during the APRSAF-14 Bangalore it was officially recommended to consider environmental monitoring as one of Sentinel Asia Step2 Activities. Later, in a meeting held in Kobe 2008, JAXA proposed to separate the environmental monitoring as new initiative under the Space Applications for Environment, SAFE. At the APRSAF-15 held in Hanoi, members recommended the official establishment of SAFE as a new initiative that provides information on environment using satellite based data. (For details of APRSAF-15, please see http://www.aprsaf.org/text/ap15_info.html )