Inter-Islamic Network on Space Sciences & Technology (ISNET), in collaboration with the Iranian space Agency (ISA), with advisory support of OIC Ministerial Standing Committee for Scientific and Technological Cooperation (COMSTECH) and co-sponsorship of Islamic Development Bank (IDB), held a two-week Workshop on Space Applications for Disaster Risk Reduction and Management from 7-19 September 2013 in Tehran, Iran. The Workshop was held at the premises of Iranian Space Research Centre (ISRC).
The Workshop comprised six thematic training modules, namely: floods, avalanches, cyclones, tsunamis, landslides, and earthquakes, which included lectures, demonstrations and hands-on exercises. It centered on the sharing of subject knowledge and practical experience in the realm of disaster risk reduction and management in order to improve capability of undertaking disaster hazard assessment, disaster preparedness and disaster recovery activities through the use of space-enabled applications. It also served to update researchers and scientists from OIC countries on the various methodologies and techniques presently being used to manage disasters and to subsequently improve their ability to analyse various forms of disaster hazards.
The Workshop began with an inauguration ceremony presided by H E Dr Ali Mohmmad Nourian, Head of Iran Meteorological Organisation and Vice-Counselor to the President of Iran. Dr Hassan Karimi, President ISRC and Executive Secretary of the Workshop gave the welcome address. In his address, he warmly welcomed participants of the Workshop and informed the audience that trainers for the Workshop had been carefully selected from Germany, Iran, the Netherlands, and Pakistan. Dr Hamid Fazeli, President ISA, also addressed the gathering in which he thanked ISNET for choosing Iran as the host country for its annual workshop 2013. In his address, he also proposed that exchange of experts among ISNET member states could be very useful in further studies on disaster risk reduction and management. He apprised the audience that Iran had recently opened a UN-SPIDER Regional Support Office with the cooperation of United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UN-OOSA).
Mr Ahmed Bilal, President ISNET and Chairman SUPARCO, also delivered a speech in which he stressed upon the need for member states to connect with one another, establish meaningful cooperation and collaboration, and undertake bilateral and multilateral projects in order to improve disaster preparedness, management and mitigation. Dr Muhammad Qasim Jan, Advisor COMSTECH, also gave a speech in which he shared the causes and statistics of the world’s biggest disasters. He called upon the ISNET and OIC member states to cooperate and collaborate in the field of disaster risk assessment and management technologies and applications so as to be able to avert the huge losses that future disasters may cause to human lives and economic infrastructure. Chief Guest of the ceremony, H E Dr Ali Mohmmad Nourian, in his address, lauded the role of space technology and its applications for disaster risk reduction and management and dilated upon Iran’s activities in this field in monitoring floods, tsunamis, earthquakes and droughts. Appreciating the timely organisation of the Workshop, he said that similar workshops should be held more frequently so that the vast disparity in technological expertise and capacity among different countries of the OIC region could be bridged. The vice-counselor also appreciated both ISNET and ISA for jointly organising the Workshop and thanked IDB for its financial support. The opening ceremony was duly publicised by electronic and press media.
First training module of the Workshop began right after the inauguration ceremony. Mr. Zafar Iqbal, head of UNSPIDER Regional Support Office – Pakistan, imparted a three-day training on Floods. The training covered the following aspects:
- Importance of disaster risk management to reduce the loss of lives and economic infrastructure;
- Central role of national space agencies in disaster management through its coordination of crucial information between, and provision of timely location-based services to, various stakeholders;
- Operational use of satellite remote sensing and GIS in all the phases of disaster management cycle, namely: early warning/contingency planning; rescue/relief efforts; early recovery; rehabilitation and reconstruction; and assistance to national disaster agencies in developing long-term solutions for flood mitigation;
- Significance of information dissemination, geo-portals, and 3D flythrough and animations, followed by a hands-on exercise session;
- Hazard risk and vulnerability assessment through hazard mapping through the use of archived satellite remote sensing imagery for identification of erosion and hot spots; and
- Role of existing international/regional cooperation mechanisms for disaster management.
This was succeeded by single-day training module on Avalanches. As an assistant professor on space sciences and a satellite remote sensing specialist, Mr. Shahid Parvez gave a comprehensive introduction of avalanches and how they are formed and triggered. Further, he elaborated the use of satellite remote sensing and GIS towards monitoring of different snow masses and assessment of avalanche hazard. He also gave lecture and imparted training on how to predict the phenomena and locate the affected using Google Earth utilities and case study of Gyari Sector Avalanche, Pakistan.
Cyclones are wind systems of relatively low pressure which spiral inwards towards a centre in the lowest atmospheric levels and cause immense destruction and loss of life upon striking coastal areas. This was the topic of the next training module. Dr. Majid Vazifedoust of Guilan University, Rasht, Iran imparted the single-day training. His training covered the following aspects:
The next and fourth module dealt in tsunamis. Dr. Andreas Hoechner, a Ph.D. in GITEWS, a German-Indonesian Tsunami Early Warning System, had come from Potsdam, Germany to impart single-day training on the topic. GITEWS was developed in 2005 in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. His training included the following lectures and practical exercises:
- Introduction to the tropical cyclones and the physical processes involved;
- Role of meteorological satellites and certain cloud products in the detection and monitoring of cyclones;
- Case study of Cyclone Gonu using EUMETSAT satellite imagery - Cyclone Gonu is the strongest tropical cyclone on record that hit the Arabian Sea as well as northern part of Indian Ocean. Upon striking Iran, Gonu dropped moderate to heavy rainfall and caused power outages while damaging some homes along the coast;
- Role of satellite communications in real-time dissemination of information and early-warning, and in providing crucial communications link for post-disaster relief efforts; and
- Atmospheric and surface parameters data acquired by earth observation satellites facilitating the temporal data analysis of cyclones.
The second week of the Workshop began with a three-day module on Landslides. Ms. Sigrid Roessner, a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering and Surveying came from the Remote Sensing Section of the German Research Centre for Geosciences, Potsdam, Germany to impart single-day training on the topic. The Centre is believed to be the pioneering research institute in this field and is largely credited for much of the evolution of geosciences globally. Her training presentations and practical exercises are summarised as under:
- Theoretical knowledge of tsunamis and the development of early warning system in the context of Iranian sea coast using Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS);
- Hazard assessment of tsunamis on the basis of certain factors such as earthquake and meteorology; and
- Hands-on exercise on the use of Tsunami Observation And Simulation Terminal (TOAST).
- Introduction to landslides and its various types and causes;
- Presentation on the use of satellite optical remote sensing to carry out the characteristic-based hazard assessment of landslides in different geographical regions;
- Establishment of landslide inventories using satellite optical remote sensing alongwith methods for their regular updating; and
- Detection and monitoring of landslides using SAR remote sensing data with the case study of creeping landslides in Kyrgyzstan, New Zealand and Iran.
The remaining two-day training was conducted by Dr. Maryam Dehghani of Iran. Dr. Dehghani holds a Ph.D. in Remote Sensing and came from Shiraz University, Iran, where she is a professor and a Ph.D. supervisor. The training covered the following topics and practical exercises:
The sixth and the final module on Earthquakes was a three-day training given by Dr. Mahdi Motagh. Dr. Motagh had also come from the German Research Centre for Geosciences, Potsdam, Germany. He holds a Ph.D. in Earth Sciences and works as a permanent senior scientist at the Centre. His training was a perfect balance of both lectures and hands-on exercises. It covered the following aspects:
- Introduction to active microwave remote sensing;
- SAR interferometry principles and its criteria for landslide monitoring;
- Description of the steps of SAR interferometry on GAMMA software;
- Hands-on exercise on GAMMA software - GAMMA software is the most powerful Digital Image Processing (DIP) software of its kind used for SAR image processing and analysis;
- Persistent Scatter Interferometry (PSI);
- Elaboration on PSI steps in StaMPS software; and
- Hands-on exercise on the use of StaMPS software.
Besides the sharing of knowledge and expertise, the Workshop also proved to be a forum where new professional linkages were established and friendships fostered. During the two-week stay in Tehran, participants also had a fair bit of exposure to Iranian culture. They were truly amazed by the Iranian hospitality, courtesy and care. The hosts also arranged a day-long cultural tour around the city of Tehran, which included visits to Tehran’s first artificial lake, forest, Saadabad Museum, Milad Tower and Azadi Tower. Participants thoroughly enjoyed the tour and the offsite lunch.
- Earthquake cycle monitoring using radar applications, including:
- Co-seismic deformation and fault slip distribution:
- Plate tectonics and earthquake;
- Dislocation theory;
- Okada model; and
- Inversion of geodetic data
- Damage assessment using interferometry decorrelation
- Inter-seismic deformation monitoring and earthquake hazard assessment
- Post-seismic deformation processes:
- Afterslip model;
- Visco-elastic models; and
- Hands-on exercises on:
- Interferometry using public domain tools;
- Installation of DORIS software;
- Flowchart of repeat-pass InSAR processing (DORIS approach); and
- SAR Interferometry using DORIS software with freely available ASAR data.
At the end of the two-week intensive Workshop that featured over fifty presentations, practical demonstrations and hands-on exercises, an hour-long interactive session was held in which participants’ feedback and Workshop recommendations were presented by the Executive Director of ISNET - Mr Arshad H Siraj. The recommendations, as formulated by the representatives of ISNET, ISA and ISRC, were unanimously adopted by the Workshop participants.
The recommendations acknowledged the definition of Disaster Risk Management and Emergency Response as set forth by the United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER) Knowledge Portal. The organisation of the Workshop was welcomed as a forum to enhance the already existing knowledge and skills in the area of space-based data towards disaster risk reduction and management, and as a means of strengthening international cooperation in this field in order to benefit all OIC/ISNET member states collectively. Key points of the recommendations are summarised as under:
The Workshop officially concluded with a brief closing ceremony. The Executive Director ISNET addressed the gathering in which he, besides congratulating the participants on the successful completion of the Workshop and unanimous adoption of its recommendations, briefly described the raison d’être of holding a workshop on disasters. He also wholeheartedly thanked the organisers from the ISA and ISRC and paid tribute to their seamless dedication in making the Workshop a success. Dr Hassan Karimi and Mr Arshad H Siraj then distributed the workshop certificates to the participants.
- There is a need to propagate the synoptic coverage, accuracy and cost-effectiveness of satellite technology at the level of policy- and decision-makers in OIC/ISNET member states alongwith all other stakeholders involved in the disaster management cycle;
- Joint cooperation mechanism should be established in order to facilitate the exchange and sharing of knowledge and expertise, technical skills and practical experience relevant to disaster risk reduction and management;
- In order to study further the various disaster hazards, their management and mitigation techniques, the need for the establishment of Technical Working Groups (TWGs) drawing relevant experts from interested member states should be considered;
- Universities in OIC/ISNET member states should be approached for student research projects pertaining to disaster risk assessment and monitoring using satellite imagery and digital image processing techniques;
- The need to establish ISNET Knowledge Portal (IKP) should be explored. All member states are encouraged to offer their expert views as regards the feasibility of the development of such portal;
- Future training courses and workshops on disasters may be more specifically designed in terms of scope, and should focus more on the hands-on exercises of satellite image processing techniques using different remote sensing sensors. The topic of droughts may be considered in future.