SPACE INPUTS TO DISASTER MANAGEMENT IN INDIA Dr V S Hegde Associate Programme Director Disaster Management Programme (DMS) Programme Office Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) HQ Bangalore 560 094, IndiaAbstract: India recognizes the valuable roles space technology plays in being ableto reduce the potential damage due to the natural disasters. Over the years, spaceapplications as inputs to early warning, event monitoring and impact assessment,broad-level hazard zonation and emergency communications, have helped inreducing the country’s vulnerability to the natural disasters. In the recent years, thefocus of disaster management community is increasingly moving on to the moreeffective utilizations of the technologies, including remote sensing, GeographicInformation Systems (GIS), and satellite communications enabling communities atrisk to prepare for, and to mitigate the potential damages likely to be caused due tothe natural disasters. Though, there are certain technological challengesconstraining their utilization effectively down the line at community level, a well-knittechnological and institutional frameworks is embarked upon at Department ofSpace level to harness the strengthen the national resolve on disaster management.1. India’s Vulnerability to Natural DisastersIndia, characterized by the unique geodynamics with active tectonic plates, typicalmonsoon behaviour driven by the less understood global interconnections, floodprone river basins coexisting with semi-arid and arid regions and long coastlines, isamongst the nations most vulnerable to natural disasters. Drought, Floods,Cyclones, Earthquakes, Landslides, Avalanche and Forest Fires have not only beencausing substantial loss of human lives and property, but also reducing the pace ofsustained economic development, often leading to heavy drain of the resourcesmeant for different developmental programmes.
Disaster management efforts have made some dent in reducing the disastervulnerability. For example, in pre-independence era, droughts and famines were thebiggest killers in the country. Extension of irrigation networks and food securitymeasures have greatly reduced deaths caused by droughts and famines. Disasterslike floods, cyclones, earthquakes, landslides and forest fires still continue tocontribute the vulnerability of the country to a very large extent. Administratively, athree-tier hierarchical organizational set-up is in place connecting Centre, State andDistrict level functionaries. There are also networks of knowledge institutionsmandated to provide operational scientific and technological inputs.2. Disaster Management – Policy FocusThe recent natural disasters of rare incidence, but dreadful severity, like the MalpaLandslide, Orissa Super Cyclone, Bhuj Earthquake, Droughts and Floods, havebrought into focus the critical gaps and inadequacies in the overall disastermanagement systems in the country. The lessons learnt from these eventsnecessitate placing greater emphasis on the collective wisdom of integrating thestate-of-the-art technologies with the administrative and policy frameworks. A HighPower Committee (HPC) constituted by Hon’ble Prime Minister, and subsequentlythe Working Group on Disaster Management, have made certain specificrecommendations on space applications to strengthen national responsemechanisms towards disaster management. Some of the highlights include: • Use of remote sensing data for mapping of vulnerable areas, creation of digital database and planning mitigation measures; • Scientific basis of damage assessment; • Improved forecasts, warning and alert systems using space applications; and • Establishment of state-of-the-art Control Room with active interface with National / State level Control Rooms with latest communications and Decision Support System. These are essentially for developing collectively the paradigms of disaster prevention, mitigation and reduction.3. Space Applications - Operational FrameworkInformation holds the key for disaster management. Space technology hasdemonstrated the operational reliance in terms of information gathering through
observations, information generation by analyzing remote sensing data inconjunction with other collateral information, and real time / near real timeinformation dissemination through ‘last mile’ connectivity. In recent years, spaceapplications, namely, INSAT based CWDS, DCP, MSS and remote sensing havegraduated from experimental and R&D phases into a reliable operational tool, indifferent aspects of disaster management. The recent trends of integrated use ofspace, information and modeling technologies have positioned ISRO/DOS in avantage place in strengthening the national resolve towards disaster management.4. Disaster Management Support (DMS) Programme of Department of SpaceTaking into account the earlier experiences of ISRO/DOS; working closely with useragencies in the areas of flood, cyclone, drought, landslide, forest fire etc; and toarrive at the specific role that ISRO/DOS could play operationally; a proto-type end-to-end pilot project was conducted addressing flood management needs in theBrahamputra basin, which helped in defining the in-house Disaster ManagementSupport (DMS) mechanisms, identifying feasible services and also the overallprogramme elements.The DMS Programme aims at strengthening the institutional capacity towardsdisaster management in the country. Towards this, the goals envisaged include: • Positioning the space, ground and applications segments through an appropriate organizational framework and programme elements, that could provide timely information with the available space systems to the disaster management community, routinely; • Institutionalization of space applications in terms of addressing the outstanding issues related to disaster management; and • ISRO/DOS to transition to the newer role of the operational service provider in the country towards disaster management. Conceptually, the DMS systems are built upon organizing the followingelements: Databases warehousing; - Technological tools - Remote Sensing, Airborne systems with optical and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) and laser capabilities; and other conventional techniques;
- Modeling (GIS, stochastic and other simulations); - Networking solutions - mostly web-enabled services.The conceived DMS is based on synthesizing theses elements to arrive at theoperational services.5. Services EnvisagedThe programme elements have been arrived at taking into account some of theservices where the role of space applications is critical and operationally feasible.The services, which could be of the direct inputs, include rapid mapping and eventmonitoring within 12 hours of the disaster event (T+12 hrs turn-around time) usingcoarse resolution remote sensing data, damage assessment, continuity of satelliteaided search and rescue services. The supportive services are: • Creation of digital databases at appropriate scale for hazard zonation in selected perennially disaster-prone areas; • Development of appropriate Remote Sensing and GIS based decision support tools and techniques, and demonstrations to cater the information needs at various levels; • Proof-of-concept study for agricultural drought; and • Acquisition of close-contour (<1m) information for selected areas; and • Strengthen the communications backbone addressing real time / near real time need.6. Emergency Resource Centre (ERC)Department of Space (DOS) is set up satellite-based tele-medicine/ tele-educationnetworks in some pockets of the remote, inaccessible and backward areas of thecountry. It is envisaged that the bandwidth enabling such services could be multi-tasked to disseminate the community centric services down the line. EmergencyResource Centre (ERC) is therefore to evolve as community asset enabling themaccess to emergency communications (satellite-based systems in conjunction withterrestrial networks) infrastructures as well as the critical services that holdconsiderable significance in perennially disaster prone areas. The concept of ERC isshown in Fig 1.
Fig. 1 Multi-tasking of emergency communication networkThe essential services like connectivity (telephone, fax, e-mail, video, data),dissemination of warning messages, vulnerability status and impending riskscenario, community empowerment through social safety nets, tele-medicinesupport, public education & training etc could be organized on the multi-taskingmode.The ERC, based on multi-tasking of telecommunications networks - including thetele-medicine, envisages the synergy of satellite communications and remotesensing, vis-à-vis the synergy and convergence of space, terrestrial and otherconventional systems. The emergency communications infrastructures involvestockpiling and maintaining the systems that include satellite phone, mobile VSATwith WLL, INSAT MSS, INMARSAT Mini-M, besides making use of terrestrialsystems conjunctively. The services, while disseminating the early warningmessages on impending disasters to the stakeholders, also include tele-medicine,tele-education/training and other capacity building related services.Fundamentally, the ERC - to be developed as community resource, aims atenhancing the indigenous coping mechanisms; and thus community resilience to thenatural disasters and empowering stakeholders.
7. International CharterISRO is also a signatory to the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters,which has its main objective towards efficient use of space technology in disastermanagement, through long-term working relationship between the civil protectioncommunity and space agencies. Through the charter, ISRO will become an integralpart of the global efforts on disaster management. ISRO will also gain in terms ofsharing the data from foreign satellites, as well as the expertise in this area. TowardsCharter implementation, ISRO would involve in: • Formulation of Charter policies and procedures; and • Execution, monitoring, follow-ups and documentation on major disasters.8. Institutional Infrastructure Enabling the proposed operational services calls for substantial capacity building measures, and towards this, the following infrastructure were found necessary: • Procurement of necessary systems, software and instrumentations to carry out the envisaged programme elements; • Acquisition of Airborne SAR with necessary instrumentations for all-weather conditions, day or night data acquisition and dissemination; • Airborne Laser Terrain Mapping (ALTM) with Digital Camera; • Control Room interfacing with Emergency Control Room at Central and State levels; • Stockpiling & Deployment of reliable communication equipment such as Satellite Mobile Communication Terminals, VSATs, WLL VSATs, CWDS, etc, for on-site DM support at the time of disaster; and • R&D support for development and use of newer sensor data in disaster management related applications The major institutional capacity building measures envisaged is the establishment of the Decision Support Centre (DSC) - as a single window service provider at NRSA, interfacing with National / State disaster management systems - by re-organizing the infrastructure for the near real time service delivery and the
conjunctive use of aerial and satellite services, and supportive R&D efforts. Infact, DSC is also envisioned to provide the institutionalized outlet for the futureEO missions like RISAT, ResourceSat and Cartosat.