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Earth Observation Technology to Back China’s Belt and Road Initiative

Nov 30, 2015     Email"> PrintText Size

The International Symposium on Earth Observation for the Maritime Silk Road (EMSR) was convened in Sanya, a coastal city in southernmost China, on November 25-27. The three-day event wrapped up with the adoption of the Sanya Declaration and an intention for cooperation regarding the joint construction of an Earth observation network. The symposium marks the start of substantial cooperation on using Earth observation technologies especially for countries along the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. 

Organized by the Institute of Remote Sensing and Digital Earth (RADI) under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, a leading research institute in China’s remote sensing and digital Earth field, the symposium provided a platform for over 300 participants from 28 countries to discuss how space technology can better serve the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Initiative, a part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative proposed by Chinese President XI Jinping in 2013 and well received by countries along the Silk Road. 

Unlike ancient China’s maritime Silk Road that enhanced trade and connectivity among countries in the region, the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Initiative highlights sustainable economic growth and resource and environmental management. 

Earth observation technologies can provide macro, rapid and accurate monitoring of changes in terrestrial ecosystems. For this reason, they have immense potential to assist in disaster mitigation, urban development, ecological protection, natural resource management and climate change in the regions covered by the initiative. 

China’s Earth observation capability has developed quickly in recent years in the areas of infrastructure construction, technological innovation and the development of big Earth data. Numerous satellites launched by China cover various fields. A remote sensing satellite reception network has been completed with coverage of all of China and 70 percent of Asia. A digital Earth science platform has also been developed by RADI to address hot topics such as climate change, disaster mitigation, digital cities and smart cities, food security and new energy exploitation. 

The symposium covered six aspects directly related to the Maritime Silk Road: construction of spatial infrastructure; coastal and marine ecosystems; resource and environmental management; harbor and port city development; disaster risk reduction; and protection of natural and cultural heritage. 

In addition to technology sessions, the symposium endeavored to improve means for advancing Earth observation technology in the region. Prof. GUO Huadong, chairman of the symposium, pointed out that multilateral S&T cooperation among countries in the region is necessary to ensure the “effective and productive” use of Earth observation technology. 

The Sanya Declaration, a result of the symposium, calls for cooperation on Earth observation infrastructure, data sharing networks and the building of an Earth observation system based on the advantages of next-generation technologies among countries in the region. 

The declaration also emphasizes that cooperation and integration should be extended to government departments, international scientific organizations and the educational and scientific research communities, as well as business enterprises and the private sector engaged in the development and application of Earth observation technologies. 

The symposium has propelled development of an Alliance of Big Earth Data for the Maritime Silk Road, which aims to promote collaboration on Earth observation and related applications involving the Maritime Silk Road. 

The meeting was the first international symposium focused on how to implement effective and productive cooperation regarding using Earth observation technology in countries along the Maritime Silk Road. The goal of EMSR is not only to advance technology, but, more importantly, to promote the sustainable development of countries in the region. EMSR symposia will be held every two years, with the second EMSR scheduled to be held in Hong Kong in November, 2017. 

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(Editor: CHEN Na)

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