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US Satellites to Help Southeast Asia with Climate Change


Cambodian catches fish in the Mekong River during the rainy season, near Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Aug. 17, 2014. More than 30 people have been killed by floods during the country's rainy season this year and more than 10,000 families have been evacuated from their homes to escape rising floodwaters. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodian catches fish in the Mekong River during the rainy season, near Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Aug. 17, 2014. More than 30 people have been killed by floods during the country's rainy season this year and more than 10,000 families have been evacuated from their homes to escape rising floodwaters. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Satellite imagery from the United States is expected to soon begin helping about 60 million people in the Lower Mekong River Basin of Southeast Asia. The goal is to help the people with natural disasters and challenges of climate change. The project adds to existing programs of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

The U.S. -led project brings together the Lower Mekong nations of Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar -- formerly known as Burma. The area faces growing challenges from rising temperatures on our planet.

Environmental activists say these problems include issues over water use, destruction of forests, floods and disaster mitigation -- reducing the effect of disasters.

The United Nations' Office of Disaster Risk Reduction says costs from natural disasters are rising. It also says from 2000 to 2012, the estimated cost of climate-related disasters was $1.7 billion. The UN agency says 1.2 million people died in the disasters. Almost three billion others were affected.

The U.S. development agency USAID will help support NASA in the five-year project. They will work with local partners including the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center, based in Thailand.

Gabrielle Iglesias serves as a project officer with the Preparedness Center. She says the goal is to report to communities about changing conditions and help them use the information effectively.

“This project will be addressing both those steps -- the development of the tools to process the information, the satellite obtained data and then to raise the capacity for decision makers to understand and interpret the results of these analyses for use in their own decision making over land use, environmental protection, adaptation.”

USAID officials say the information will go to a number of experts. They include scientists, government representatives, national resource managers and disaster response specialists. The officials say their purpose was to more effectively provide support to areas with the most immediate need after natural disasters.

The costs of getting such satellite imagery have dropped sharply in recent years. That has made the data more easily available. Such information proves especially valuable immediately after natural disasters.

In 2008, Cyclone Nargis struck the Irrawaddy Delta area of Myanmar. More than 130,000 people died in that storm.

I’m Jonathan Evans.

This story was reported by correspondent Ron Corben in Bangkok. Jeri Watson wrote it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in this Story

challenges - n. – difficulties or problems

currently - adj. – happening or existing now; belonging or existing in the present time

data - n. – facts or information used usually to calculate, to plan, to analyze something

resource - n. – something that a country has that can increase its wealth

imagery - n. – pictures or photos

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