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. Panama gets high-tech NASA environmental monitoring center
PANAMA (AFP) Feb 03, 2005
The US space agency NASA was to open a regional environmental change monitoring system in Panama Thursday which uses satellites to generate data on a region it called "urgently" in need of environmental protection.

Installed in a former US military base near the Panama capital, NASA's SERVIR system will provide scientists in Mexico and Central American countries online access to satellite data and imagery to map and visualize changes in the region's environment.

Aside from helping governments and scientists map ecological destruction and forecast climate change, the system will provide rapid information on the effects of natural disasters like hurricanes and volcanoes.

The new monitoring center was set up in conjunction with the Panama-based Water Center for the Humid Tropics of Latin America and the Caribbean (CATHALAC) and is supported with financing from the US Agency for International Development.

NASA said the system will be especially useful to conservationists in what it called a "critical region" biologically, with important but threatened tropical forests.

SERVIR will also help survey areas in the region most threatened by drought, flooding, earthquakes and other natural calamities, said Ligia Castro, director of the government's National Environmental Authority.

The SERVIR center was to be inaugurated Thursday by Panamanian President Martin Torrijos.

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