In the wake of the December 26 tsunami, we posted a piece touching on the International Charter: Space and Major Disasters (ICSMD), a global agreement to share satellite information to support post-disaster relief efforts. The Charter is an important tool for nations without space programs of their own, allowing even the poorest regions the ability to use satellite images, maps and data to aid with rescue, recovery and rebuilding efforts. The ESA and NASA are participants, along with the Indian, Canadian and Argentinian satellite programs.
The ESA has just posted an update on ICSMD relief, this time focusing on flooding in Romania. Storms across Southeast Europe have resulted in the worst flooding in Romania in over 50 years; 31 out of the 42 counties in the nation have been hit. On July 15, Romania officially sought support from ICSMD -- and had useful information before the day was out.
"We can say we had the chance to get very fast, very good images and maps," stated Iurie Maxim at the Nature Conservation Directorate of MEWM. "We were able to show out minister at 8pm some posters with images from the same day. The next morning the same posters were presented to the Prime Minister and forwarded to the people working on this issue. "We were able to provide the necessary tools to the people involved in the water department and to those involved in the civil protection."
The ICSMD is a powerful reminder that space programs aren't just about looking out at the rest of the solar system and the stars beyond; the ability to launch satellites and space probes is absolutely critical for both a better understanding of our home planet and our ability to respond effectively to environmental problems. As climate disruption and global warming lead to stronger and more frequent storms, we'll be very happy that programs like ICSMD -- and the space efforts it relies upon -- are available.