Sustainable natural resource use lies at the heart of economic and social development and is a critical factor in poverty reduction. However, long term data sets for understanding natural resource availability and monitoring change do not exist, particularly in countries with the most need for this information. In addition, monitoring networks are often sparse and poorly maintained due to the high cost of data collection.
To fill this information gap, satellite platforms can help countries more effectively measure and monitor their natural resources. Remote sensing enables coverage over large areas and time frames without the need for a large workforce. As the resolution and the frequency of available images continue to improve, we can have access to information that would otherwise be prohibitively costly to collect on the ground.
In 2016 the European Space Agency (ESA) started working with the Environmental and Social Safeguards Unit of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to provide financial and technical support to develop a series of case studies on Remote Sensing. The goal of the case studies is to demonstrate how remote sensing data can provide information on natural resources for both project design and monitoring throughout the project life cycle for better project management, planning, and compliance with IDB’s Safeguard Policies. ESA is using its vast library of satellite imagery going back to the year 2000 and even earlier, as well as more recent high resolution images, to carry out these analyses.
Many of the case studies focus on Bolivia, where the Bank is supporting the Government in a range of different projects. These projects include expanding the access to clean water to the El Alto metropolitan area by bringing water from the upper Andean basins, cleaning up the water entering the Lake Titicaca basin, as well as projects in land titling in the Amazonian region. Specifically the analyses will:
- Map wetlands in the highlands around Lake Titicaca using high resolution images, and monitor the change in their size and quality over time;
- Map and monitor the impacts of new dams that will provide water to El Alto on the surrounding wetland vegetation;
- Monitor the effect of land titling on land-use change and deforestation in the lowlands of Bolivia; and
- Monitor the change in water quality in Lake Titicaca (by measuring water color) following the installation of water treatment plants in rivers draining into the lake. At present the lake receives heavily polluted water from La Paz, as well as point pollution sources from mining and agricultural activities.
In addition, ESA case studies will also look at:
- Predicting landslide susceptibility and monitoring deforestation along two new roads being constructed in areas with extreme landslides in Haiti and Colombia;
- Monitoring the impact of sediment trapping of a hydroelectric dam on coastal erosion and flooding downstream of the Tabasco dams in Mexico; and
- Understanding the expansion of small scale deforestation and mining along the access road to Amaila Falls in Guyana by using changes in sedimentation in the rivers, and a change in density of the forest cover.
The use of Earth observation technology as a standard tool in planning, implementation, monitoring, and assessment of IDB projects could revolutionize the way we work, helping us make more informed decisions and to become more efficient in detecting issues. We can then be more effective in resolving these issues in a timely fashion, thus contributing to the region’s sustainable development.
Read this story and other examples of our sustainability efforts in the IDB’s 2016 Sustainability Report.