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Environmental Inspection from Outer Space
December 21, 2016 20:45

A state-of-the-art system for monitoring the ecological condition in the areas of coal mining has been presented in the Siberian city of Kemerovo, Russia. The system is mostly based on satellite imagery. According to the developers, it will provide objective and timely data about the industrial impact on the environment.
The Geoportal website was presented at the meeting of the Health, Environment and Sports Development Committee of the Regional Public Chamber. It is an information system, multiple layers of which contain a variety of data on natural and man-made systems, biodiversity, protected areas, infrastructure objects, land use, and so on. The active website contains reference data on the current state so that professionals (eg, ecologists at coal enterprises) can operate it. The portal is located on the publicly available
The Geoportal has been developed for the Kemerovo Region by the Kemerovo Branch of the Computational Technologies Institute (Novosibirsk) of the Russian Academy of Science. It is assisted by the UN Development Program and the Global Environment Facility "Biodiversity Conservation Tasks in Politics and Development Programs of Russia's Energy Sector". According to the developers, it is the first portal of the kind in Russia. There is a similar technology in Israel, though.
Biologists, soil scientists, foresters, and IT professionals worked on the geoportal for over two years.
The working group inventoried biodiversity areas (the aggregate of plant and animal species) according to the UN approved methodology, defined the boundaries of disturbed lands, and so on. Scientists worked both in the field and with documentation in order to systematize the data from various sources.
Space images with the resolution from 2.5 to 30 meters per pixel enable experts to draw conclusions about the boundaries of disturbed lands and air pollution (spectral analysis), as well as see turbidity of rivers. According to expert Vadim Potapov, pictures taken from the Earth orbit also help to monitor man-made seismic activity: "The satellites give a clear picture of the changes in the surface topography. Displacement accuracy is up to five millimeters in size only".
Even before the introduction of Geoportal service the Kuzbass Region had positive experience of using satellite images to assess the environmental condition in the areas of mining.
Use for Coal Miners and Environmental Department
The expert emphasizes that the system makes it possible to not only measure adverse impact of mining on the environment, but also prevent it. For example, by comparing the time and location of  a coal quarry explosion with the chart of prevailing winds, it is possible to figure out the direction of polluting. Thus, professionals can handle and regulate it.
Finally, according to the developers' concept, the portal provides information to project designers and agencies that issue licenses for subsoil use. It makes it clear, in what areas coal mining is safe and where it has to be limited or even prohibited.
Environment protecting authorities of Kuzbass have been working with the Geoportal in the testing mode for two months.
"We have tried to introduce the program into the work of our department. Almost every day we get inquires about the presence of endangered species on a given territory. Lst year there were nearly 400 applications of the kind" - a consultant of the Regional Natural Resources and Environment Department, Catherine Lymareva points out.

Author: Vera Ivanova

Tags: Space Satellites Environment   

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