ISLAMABAD – The Government of Pakistan in collaboration with United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UN-OOSA) and Inter Islamic Network on Space Sciences and Technology (ISNET) organised an international workshop on Integrated Use of Space Technologies for Food and Water Security, here on Monday.

Pakistan’s Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) hosts the event. The workshop will continue till March 15, 2013. The experts from over 30 countries including are participating in the workshop.

Speaking on the occasion, Minister of State for National Food Security and Research Muhammad Moazzam Ali Khan Jatoi said that food and water security were the foremost challenges faced today. “We have achieved a level of economic development but somehow we have overlooked the most important issue of sustainable food and water security,” he commented.

“Progress in enhancing food security has been slow and seriously undermined by the drastic rise in world food prices from 2007 to mid-2008 and the global financial crunch which unfolded in the second half of 2008. The number of hungry people in the world rose by more than 115 million, bringing the total number of people suffering from chronic hunger to more than one billion people or 15 percent of the world population,” Jatoi said

Chairman SUPARCO Ahmed Bilal said that space technology continued to inspire human minds through innovative ideas and creative inventions. “Food security, being a complex topic, stands at the intersection of many disciplines. At play are various direct and indirect contributing factors like hydrology, climate change, genetic engineering applications, fertilizer availability, loss of biodiversity, price setting and trading of the food as other internationally traded commodities.”

On the role of space technology and SUPARCO, he said “The SUPARCO has placed major emphasis on developing a sizable user base for satellite applications in the country by way of undertaking numerous projects of national interest in collaboration with several different federal and provincial ministries and departments. These include issuance of agricultural bulletins, water course management, land digitisation, environmental audit etc. SUPARCO has also helped develop satellite-enabled applications in the areas of disaster management, relief and mitigation, and played its due role during the earthquake of 2005 and floods of 2010 and 2011.”

Executive Director ISNET Arshad  Siraj said “Almost all countries in the Near East and North Africa suffer from acute water scarcity.

Despite the region’s diversity of landscapes and climates, most of these countries are unable to meet even the current water demand. And as the region’s economies and population structures change over the next few decades, demand for water supply and irrigation services is expected to increase.”