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2010 Pacific Islands GIS/RS Conference opens

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Close to 200 participants were told by SOPAC’s Director, Dr. Russell Howorth, that the development of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing will continue to be a major part of the SOPAC technical support service work programme.

SOPAC provides assistance to 21 island countries in the Pacific region through applied geoscience and technology.

Dr. Howorth was speaking at the 2010 Pacific Islands Geographic Information System (GIS) and Remote Sensing (RS) Conference being currently being held in Suva, Fiji.

In his comments, Dr. Howorth referred to a new regional arrangement in which SOPAC the commission will become SOPAC the division of SPC from the 1st of January 2011.

But he assured those in attendance that “the SOPAC work programme and in particular for the GIS and Remote Sensing Technical Support Services, it will be business as usual and if at all possible, it will get better with improved service delivery to the region.”   

Dr. Howorth said that, in fact, the GIS and Remote Sensing has been a critical part of the SOPAC work programme for nearly the past two decades, Ground Information Systems (GIS) is the use of satellite technology to map details in specific areas on earth that can help in planning, security, and evaluation.

Remote sensing is any technology that can be used to create maps without having to physically touch the territory being described.  These remote sensing technologies are often deployed from a plane or satellite.

Dr. Howorth provided a brief history of the development of GIS and Remote Sensor, highlighting its growth in the region and brought particular attention to Philipp Mueller, the then Director of SOPAC from l992 to 1998.

He said that Mr. Mueller in l994 prophetically observed that “geographic information systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing have become essential technologies that the SOPAC Secretariat is rapidly adopting. Though these development efforts show little immediate return, they will have tremendous benefits in the future.”

It was the year that SOPAC was given the regional coordination responsibility for GIS and Remote Sensing.
Speaking of the future, Dr. Howorth said that in the merger between SOPAC and SPC that GIs and Remote Sensing applications will grow through this process.

“This is because SPC has more member countries than SOPAC and within SPC, GIS and Remote Sensing applications will grow and will result in stimulating applications in the Pacific island countries. GIS and Remote Sensing applications for vegetation mapping and demography are good examples of this process.”

The conference will end on Friday, November 26

Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 May 2011 17:00  


Monday 17 June 2013, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) –  The Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), with Geoscience Australia, has developed a computer model to help the Government of Tonga see what the impact of a tsunami would be on Tongatapu. Part of an AusAID funded project, the model makes use of high resolution data, the collection of which was made possible by Australia, the European Union, and the New Zealand Ocean Sciences Grant.

The new Tsunami Inundation Model shows that an 8.7 magnitude earthquake in the Tonga Trench would create a wave that would hit the eastern coast of Tongatapu within ten to twenty minutes, inundating most of Nuku’alofa.  Leveni ‘Aho, Director of Tonga’s National Disaster Management Office, says the new computer model has enabled the Government of Tonga to consider how the public would need to respond in a range of possible scenarios.

‘Nuku’alofa has, perhaps, the biggest urban population in the Pacific living in a very low-lying area. We can talk about Japan’s earthquakes but if we can present something that shows what is going to happen to us here at home, the message is much more effective.  For us, it’s an excellent opportunity to help communities to be aware of what could possibly come and what they will need to do if a significant event occurs,’ he says.

After the model was presented to the cabinet and the National Emergency Management Committee, the Hon. Prime Minister Lord Tuʻivakanō indicated that the government would need support to construct access ways to some parts of Nuku’alofa so that the local community can quickly get to safe areas.

Mr ‘Aho says the model is also helping the Government of Tonga to design emergency response measures and improve long-term urban planning for Nuku’alofa and its surrounding villages.‘The tsunami computer model given by SPC has provided the government with a wonderful tool to help us really understand the risks of different scenarios and to prepare in the best ways we can,’ he says.

Mosese Sikivou, Deputy Director of SPC’s Disaster Reduction Programme, says this project is part of SPC’s assistance to Tonga in connection with its Joint National Action Plan for Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Management, approved by Cabinet in July 2010. The work to develop the model is part of an integrated approach that SPC and other partners are taking right across the Pacific to try and maximise scarce resources and minimise duplication of effort and potential conflict in policy development.