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Satellites to Foretell Disasters

Unexpected scorching weather this summer in southern China caused many rice seedlings to wither in their paddies while sudden temperature drops in the north this autumn made many rice seedlings fail to bear seeds.

This kind of situation could be greatly eased in the next few years when a satellite-oriented disaster reduction information system is built, civil affairs officials said yesterday.

In light of the important contribution of remote sensing technology in disaster reduction planning, the country is building a "small satellite constellation system for environment and disaster monitoring" over the next seven years, said Professor Li Jing with the National Center for Disaster Reduction. He spoke yesterday at a Beijing workshop.

The first step will be to launch three satellites within two years and by the end of 2010 eight will be sent up to complete the system, according to Li.

The satellites are being jointly initiated by the National Disaster Reduction Committee, State Environment Protection Administration and National Group for Space Science and Technology. They will be run by the center.

"A double-way disaster information sharing mechanism will be formed between the center and local disaster reduction departments to provide better service to disaster-stricken areas," Li said.

The country's present disaster management information system has four legs including the central, provincial, city and county sections, all of which are facing upgrades to improve working efficiency and capability, Vice-Minister of Civil Affairs Yang Yanyin said.

This year, China has been severely hit by natural disasters including floods, droughts, typhoons, earthquakes and landslides.

According to statistics with the ministry, various disasters this year have affected about 60 million hectares of crops.

More than 2,160 people lost their lives in the disasters, seven million houses have been damaged and seven million people have been relocated.

(China Daily December 12, 2003)

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