Zimbabwe’s civil protection dept to set up earth observation satellite system to detect pending disasters

By Wallace Mawire

Zimbabwe’s department of Civil Protection is to set up an earth observation satellite system, a facility which is expected to house a multi-hazard or integrated early warning system for impending disasters in the country.

  A spokesperson of the department, Meliqiniso  Sibanda said that   all early warning systems should be under one roof instead of operating in silos in the country.

 “So early warning systems for fire, epidemics and   meteorological hazards should be integrated for prompt response to emergencies,” she said.

  She added that the space technology also known as earth observation satellite technology is for use in collecting real time data in areas affected by flooding.

 She added that for example, during the Tokwe-Mukosi dam   flooding, Professor Amon Murwira, while at the  University of Zimbabwe (UZ)  activated the system  and  was viewing the disaster and was also taking pictures.

 “So there is need to have the system installed at all the 10 provinces in the country,” Sibanda said.

  She added that the facility is in line with international best practice.

   She said that the  Meteorological  Services department  have their own satellite technology for early warning in Belvedere.

  She also said that  Environmental Management Agency (EMA)  have their own separate one for detection of fire outbreaks,  Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) have theirs and the ministry  of Health and Child Care have their.

    Sibanda said that their mandate as the   department  of Civil Protection (DCP) according to the Civil Protection Act of 1989, is overall coordination of stakeholders involved in disaster risk management.

  “So we need all early warning systems under one roof for prompt response to emergencies. Currently, the aforementioned organizations are working in silos so DCP needs an integrated, multi-hazard early warning system where we will have meteorological   services, ZINWA, EMA, ministry  of Health, National Parks and  Wildlife Management, Zimbabwe Republic Police traffic under one roof, in one room and  manning the system under the control of DCP,” she said.

  She said that when that happens, early warning information is quickly shared for early action to enhance prompt response to emergencies.

  Sibanda said that Japan, China, USA and  most disaster management authorities in developed countries operate in that  way.

 “We need the system to be installed in provinces as well, to be manned by Provincial Development Coordinators. The system uses earth observation satellite technology,” Sibanda said.

  She added that Econet’s Higher Life Foundation have shown an interest to fund the initiative   but it  has not materialised yet.

  “When we get funding, we are supposed to move from 7th floor Makombe building to the Births and  Registry building which should be renovated first before occupation. The Births and   Registry staff should go to the new building next to theirs. The system is to be installed in Harare first,” she said.

UNSPIDER  the United Nations agency specializing in space technology  provides technical advice to countries that request to be capacitated on the use of space technology in pre-disaster situations, during disaster events and in post-disaster situations. 

 “Through the country UNDP Office, DCP  requested to be a member of the UNSPIDER system. So, the equipment to be installed should be recommended by UNSPIDER as it should be in sync with their equipment. In case of a disaster, UNSPIDER will reactivate the relevant charter so that we record/collect real time data,” Sibanda said. 

 She said the system is expected to cost at least US$300 000.

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