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Environment Satellites To Watch For Potential Disasters

Shi Jiangtao – SCMP – Updated on Sep 04, 2008

Two environmental satellites will be launched this week to track degradation and cope with natural disasters, state media reported.

The optical satellites, Environment 1A and 1B, would be sent into orbit by a Long March 2C carrier rocket from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Centre in Shanxi province tomorrow or on Saturday, the People’s Daily website said.

The announcement was made yesterday by the Bureau of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence, formerly a ministry-level body and now part of the new Ministry of Industry and Information.

Environmental officials hailed the move as a major step in the fight against pollution and natural disasters.

Environmental protection vice-minister Wu Xiaoqing told the China Business News that the satellites, which would cover most of the country, would significantly enhance the ability to monitor environmental changes and provide real-time data. Although there are more than 2,000 stations across the mainland to monitor environment and natural disasters, environmental watchdogs have complained about a data shortage in Earth observations.

Environmental authorities have pushed for the launch of satellites for years, which they said was a necessary move to “cope with the dynamic environment and the occurrence of natural disasters”. But their launch had been postponed several times.

The two satellites being launched this week are the first of eight to be launched in the next few years, which will eventually work as a network.

Mr Wu said the satellites would play an important role in forecasting a wide range of disasters, such as floods, droughts, typhoons, landslides, earthquakes, forest fires and sandstorms, and help with disaster relief. He gave no further details.

Cases of rampant pollution, degradation and natural disasters have wreaked havoc, causing huge economic losses. Disaster-relief efforts were hampered by lack of satellite information following the magnitude-8 earthquake that hit Sichuan in May, leaving nearly 88,000 dead or missing and millions homeless.

The nation has launched land resources satellites before in an attempt to collect and analyse warning signs of potential natural disasters.

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