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Remote sensing for resources development and environmental management
Damen, M. C. J.

Symposium on Remote Sensing for Resources Development and Environmental Management/Enschede/August 1986
© 1987Balkema, Rotterdam. ISBN 90 6191 674 7
Opening session
President ofISPRS Commission VII
Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of Commission VII of the ISPRS I welcome
you all at our Symposium. We are very grateful that
you have accepted our invitation. I welcome espe
cially the honorary committee members and the
sponsors of our meeting. I thank Dr. Van Spiegel,
Director General for Science Policy for his willing
ness to address and open this conference. Welcome to
Professor Konecny and Dr. Tbrlegard, president and
secretary general of ISPRS and a special welcome to
our French colleagues who have organized the pre
vious conference of this Commission in Toulouse.
450 Specialists and 50 students are participating
in this conference. Against the background of almost
200 papers we are expected to make progress in two
closely related subjects:
1. in resources development;
2. in environmental management.
Resources development is a pressing need in the
first place in the developing countries with rapidly
growing populations: especially in Africa where food
production and distribution problems are reaching
dramatic proportions. The process of land develop
ment in the tropics includes the uncontrolled
destruction of tropical forests in an unprecedented
way: the F AO estimates that each year at least. 11
million hectares are deforested, three times the
size of The Netherlands. The resulting land degrada
tion is posing a global threat to our environment.
By organizing this Symposium at the ITC we in
tended to draw special attention to the developing
countries. I am very pleased with the many papers
and participants from these countries, including a
large number of ITC-alumni. I should like to mention
here that both ITC and Commission VII were an in
itiative of Professor Schermerhorn, taken during the
ISPRS Congress in The Hague in 1948.
In the developed countries quite a different
situation is now emerging, here the production of
agriculture commodities is reaching the point of
market saturation, new technologies continue to
increase the productivity per hectare. Thus remote
sensing is expected to support processes of re
allocation of land from agriculture to other uses.
Furthermore the social cost of the environmental
pollution caused by industry and modern farming has
reached levels which are no longer acceptable to the
commuai ty.
In The Netherlands for instance we do not know
anymore how to recycle all animal manure produced in
the livestock sector. These very intensive farming
systems use imported animal feedstuffs produced
abroad on the equivalent land area of 2 million
hectares, while the livestock sector in The
Netherlands occupies only one million hectares.
What to do about forests which suffer from acid
rain? Also recycling of chemical wastes and radio
active materials is apparently presenting new
challenges to environmental management.
During the previous Commission VII meeting in The
Netherlands in Delft in 1962, the President Professor
Edelman emphasized - especially in developing
countries - the urgency of aerial photo
interpretation for natural resources inventory.
There should be no doubt that aero-space survey is
still one of the most important tools for investigat
ing a country’s potentialities. But now, six Symposia
later, there seems to be a shift in priorities.
1. Resource inventory field techniques need to be
re-assessed in view of the relevancy of the informa
tion they produce, the speed with which the
information can reach the user and the corresponding
cost. Already new digital data processing techniques
are posing challenging questions about the data
collection techniques.
2. There seem to be no fundamental differences
between the developed and the developing countries in
the kind of advanced remote sensing techniques, which
can play a role in resources development and environ
mental management. But the lack of qualified human
resources is becoming a major constraint while the
information needs are more pressing that ever before.
To illustrate this:
During the past 40 years a tremendous uncontrolled
growth of urban centres has taken place in the
developing countries. During the next 15 years the
population of these urban areas will double. India
now has one hundred cities with more than one million
inhabitants. To manage this growth process in a
positive way requires an enormous production of large
scale town maps, preferably at a very low cost. After
World War II Europe achieved a very rapid reconstruc
tion, not only thanks to the USA Marshall aid, but
also thanks to the availability of qualified human
resources and experience, including topographic maps
and survey facilities.
In the developing countries the urban growth process
is a new experience, there are very few maps avail
able and the trained manpower is almost absent. We
should keep this in mind during our deliberations on
the application of remote sensing technology.
At this moment remote sensing and computer assisted
information management techniques seem to become
promising tools for tackling the development and
environmental issues I have touched upon. The suc
cessful operation of the SPOT satellite, to be
presented this week by Dr. Brachet, the advances with
low cost aerial photography and the first results
with geographical information systems will illustrate
Nevertheless the problems of development, facing us,
are of an overwhelming magnitude and complexity. This
situation must have been the challenge of mankind
through the ages. It explains the long tradition of
modesty and understatement which characterize the
true scientist.
The International Society for Photogrammetry and
Remote Sensing, during its 75 years of existence, has
developed a scientific tradition of setting
standards of precision and reliability, in par
ticular for reaching cartographic standards in the
production of maps. The society has become an essen
tial forum for dialogue beween the industries which
produce the technology, the instruments, the systems
and the usei—community.