Palau, in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), is launching a digital-mapping survey using Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology, to enhance Palau’s disaster risk management capacity and support development projects.
The new technology uses a pulsed laser mounted to a CESSNA aircraft to measure distances between a certain elevation and the earth, creating a digital map of a landscape. The survey will be used to determine areas of Palau which are vulnerable to natural disasters such as typhoons, storm surges, and rising sea levels caused by climate change.
The project is part of a $7.5 million grant from the Government of Japan, implemented by the UNDP for enhancing disaster and climate resilience in Palau. The $900 thousand allocated for the LiDAR project is being used to supply the Office of the Palau Automated Land and Resource Information System (PALARIS) with the remote sensing technology itself, as well as additional equipment such as two vehicles, five desktops, four laptops, a survey drone, and GPS. The tech support is being supplied by Frugo, the world’s leading Geo-data specialist company.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the project took place at Penthouse Hotel in Koror yesterday morning, and was attended by PALARIS Senior GIS Analyst David Idip, Ambassador of Japan to Palau Akira Karasawa, and UNPD Country Project Coordinator Aleyda Valdes.
Mr. Idip said that the mapping project will cover the whole of Palau, approximately 414 square kilometers on all major islands and island chains, including Kayangel, Babeldaob, Koror, Peleliu, Angaur, Sonsorol, and Hatohobei.
Mr. Idip also stressed that the project will not only increase Palau’s preparedness for natural disasters, but will also support other projects such as housing development in Babeldaob, and will boost PALARIS’ overall capacity to manage its projects.
“[PALARIS’] activities range from people coming to our office to ask for maps for their properties to maritime negotiations with our neighboring countries,” Mr. Idip said.
Right now, the mapping project is waiting on a few experts from the US and Australia, whose arrival is delayed due to COVID travel restrictions.
This is the third handover for the Enhancing Disaster and Climate Resilience (EDCR) Project to Palau. The first two took place in April and August of last year, and included mobile storage units to house rescue equipment, two SUV’s, a pickup truck, and other search-and-rescue items.
Ambassador Karasawa emphasized the importance of identifying at-risk areas, such as low-lying land vulnerable to rising tides, in providing protection to Palau’s communities.
“Through this activity, Palau will be able to understand its geographical situation and identify its vulnerable areas, which I believe is the fundamental information needed for disaster-prevention,” the Ambassador said.