NASA and the U.S. Agency for International Development expanded their successful collaboration with international partners to launch an innovative, web-based environmental management system for the Himalayan region.
The partners inaugurated this state-of-the-art regional monitoring system, known as SERVIR-Himalaya, at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development in Kathmandu, Nepal, on Oct. 5. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony in Nepal.
SERVIR was developed by researchers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., and its name comes from the Spanish word meaning “to serve.” SERVIR features web-based access to satellite imagery, decision-support tools and interactive visualization capabilities, and puts previously inaccessible information into the hands of scientists, environmental managers, and decision-makers. The Earth observation information is used to address threats related to climate change, biodiversity, and extreme events such as flooding, forest fires, and storms.
“NASA’s science mission begins here on Earth, with greater awareness and understanding of our changing planet, and solutions for protecting our environment, resources and human lives,” Bolden said. “The SERVIR technology and our partnership with various organizations and people around the globe reflect NASA’s commitment to improving life on our home planet for all people.”
Since 2005, SERVIR has served the Mesoamerican region and the Dominican Republic from the Water Center for the Humid Tropics of Latin America and the Caribbean, which is based in Panama. SERVIR also has served East Africa from the Regional Center for Mapping of Resources for Development in Nairobi since 2008.
NASA and USAID are expanding SERVIR to the Himalayas to address critical issues such as land cover change, air quality, glacial melt and adaptation to climate change. The agencies are working in partnership with the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), a regional knowledge development and learning center that serves member countries in the Hindu-Kush-Himalaya region, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Nepal, Myanmar and Pakistan.
The countries in the Hindu-Kush-Himalaya region have unique needs related to their extreme mountain environments. The region is known as Earth’s “third pole,” because of its inaccessibility and the vast amount of water stored there in the form of ice and snow.
“USAID’s commitment with SERVIR is to create the linkage from space to village, to apply the best in science and technology to meet development challenges,” said Mike Yates, senior deputy assistant administrator of USAID’s Bureau for Economic Growth, Agriculture and Trade. “We are pleased to work with our partners in Nepal, and in other regions of the world, to build capacity to use satellite data and mapping technologies for making practical decisions that improve people’s lives.”
SERVIR-Himalaya will integrate Earth science data from NASA satellites with geospatial information products from other government agencies. SERVIR was developed in coordination with the Group on Earth Observations, more than 80 nations working together to build a Global Earth Observing System of Systems to benefit the needs of society.
“I am very pleased that through the partnership with USAID and NASA on SERVIR-Himalaya, ICIMOD will be able to augment its capacity and its network of cooperative partners in the region to use Earth observation for societal benefits of the mountain communities,” said Basanta Shrestha, division head of the Mountain Environment and Natural Resources Information System for ICIMOD.
The SERVIR program is operated by the Earth Science Division’s Applied Sciences Program in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Four other NASA field centers work with Marshall on the program: Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., Ames Research Center in Moffet Field, Calif., the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.