Drought, a creeping disaster affecting many countries in the Asia-Pacific region, adversely affects socioeconomic development and exacerbates poverty among millions of people who depend directly on land as a source of livelihood. The Asia-Pacific region has the largest number of people affected by droughts of any continent. Many countries in the region face tremendous challenges in drought disaster preparedness, particularly in monitoring and early warning aspects.
In addressing these challenges, ESCAP has operationalized the Regional Cooperative Mechanism for Drought Monitoring and Early Warning, which is a flagship project under ESCAP's Regional Space Applications Programme (RESAP). The Mechanism, which was initiated on request, is already active in five pilot countries: Mongolia, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Nepal and Myanmar. It will provide space-based data, products and services, and strengthen capacity of member States in addressing gaps in monitoring and early warning of agricultural droughts.
Following the request to ESCAP from Mongolia for regional advisory services for disaster preparedness, the project was developed together with the Mongolian National Remote Sensing Center (NRSC) to enhance its capacity to monitor and detect drought and dzud.
ESCAP Information and Communications Technology and Disaster Risk Reduction Division (IDD) and East and North-East Asia Office held the first technical assistance meeting in September 2013 in Ulaanbaatar, with remote sensing/Geographic Information System (GIS) experts from ESCAP secretariat, China, India, Japan and Regional Integrated Multi-Hazard Early Warning System (RIMES) to discuss NRSC's current capacity and the key issues involved in identifying appropriate drought indicators that could be applied to Mongolia's unique climate and landscape. The participants also agreed on a plan of action for 2014.
This project was shared at the ESCAP’s Intergovernmental Committee on Disaster Risk Reduction held in November 2013 in Bangkok, as well as the back to back meeting of the Intergovernmental Consultative Committee on RESAP. In early 2014, a series of activities have been conducted in Mongolia in addressing the gaps and needs towards effective use of space-based data and GIS in related agencies such as NRSC and National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) for disaster risk reduction and sustainable development. The Mongolian project will be used as a pilot for operationalizing the RESAP mechanism.
Organized by IDD and East and North-East Asia Office of ESCAP, two staff from NRSC will receive a hands-on training for two months on building databases and finding indices at China's Institute of Remote Sensing and Digital Earth (RADI) from February 2014.
A mid-term review workshop will be held in September 2014 to assess progress and discuss the second year implementation plan.