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Earth Observation Technology to Back China’s Belt and Road Initiative
 Date: 2015-11-30  Page Views:

The International Symposium on Earth Observation for Maritime Silk Road (EMSR) was convened in Sanya, a coastal city in southernmost China on November 25-27, 2015. 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, which marks a start of substantial cooperation on using Earth observation technology especially for the countries along the 21th 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 aims to provide a platform for over 300 participants from 28 countries to discuss how space technology can better serve the 21th Century Maritime Silk Road initiative, a part of China’s Belt and Road initiative proposed by Chinese President XI Jinping in 2013 and then well received by the countries along the Silk Road.

Unlike ancient China’s Maritime Silk Route that enhanced trade and connectivity among the countries in the region, the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiative highlights sustainable economic growth and resources and environment management.

Earth observation technology, with the advantages of macro, rapid and accurate monitoring of changes of terrestrial ecosystems, have immense potential to deal with disaster mitigation, urban development, ecological protection, natural resource management and climate change in the regions along the Initiative. 

China’s Earth observation capacity develops quickly these years in the areas of infrastructure construction, technology innovation and the development of big Earth data. Numerous satellites launched in China cover various fields. A remote sensing satellite reception network has been completed with a coverage of the whole China and 70% of the Asian territory. A Digital Earth science platform has been developed by RADI to address the hot topics such as climate change, disaster mitigation, digital city and smart city, food security, and new energy exploitation.

The symposium featured six aspects directly related to the Maritime Silk Road, including the construction of spatial infrastructures, coastal and marine ecosystems, resource and environment management, harbor and port cities development, disaster risk reduction, and natural and cultural heritage protection. 

In addition to the technical sessions, the symposium tried to optimize a way for the advance in Earth observation technology in the region. Chairman of the symposium, Prof. GUO Huadong, pointed out that the multilateral S&T cooperation among the 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 the cooperation on Earth observation infrastructure, data sharing networks, and the building of an Earth observation system based on the advantage of next-generation technologies among the countries along the region. 

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

The symposium contributed to the building of an Alliance of Big Earth Data for Maritime Silk Road, which aims to develop collaboration on Earth observation and related application fields concerning Maritime Silk Road.

It is the first international symposium focused on how to carry out effective and productive cooperation on using Earth observation technologies in the countries along the Maritime Silk Road. The goal of EMSR is not only to advance the technology, but more importantly, to promote the sustainable development of the countries along the region. It has been fixed as a series to be held every two years, and the second EMSR is scheduled to be held in Hong Kong, China in November, 2017.

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