Satellite Imagery to evaluate human settlements on the planet

Satellite Image of New York City. Courtesy of ESA

The relevance of Satellite images to estimate the number of people living in urban or rural areas was presented on 18 October 2016 by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) at the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) held in Quito, Ecuador from 17 to 20 October 2016.

This vital information is presented in the Global Human Settlement Layer (GHSL), a new, open and free tool that is also the most complete and reliable of its kind. Besides providing information on where people live, it is also an evaluation instrument when it comes to determine which urban centers are exposed to disasters.  

The GHSL shows the growth in population and of built up areas over the last 40 decades.  The world urban population living in coastal regions has duplicated, from 45 million people on 1975 to 88 million people on 2015, reported EARSC. This expansion also increases the risk to natural disasters.

The GHSL is also a tool to monitor the implementation of international frameworks like the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015 – 2030 (DRR).

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