Industrial activity assessment

Industrial activity in developing countries is a principal means of generating wealth. Earth Observation can support industrial activity assessments either from a planning perspective i.e. assessing site potential/suitability for industrial development, or from a monitoring perspective i.e. assessing the extent and/or impact of the activity on the surrounding environment.This service contributes to development and improved management of three key industrial sectors: 1) Hydropower, 2) Aquaculture, and 3) Mining.

From an industrial planning perspective the products from this service will provide locations that are highly suitable for the respective activity. The service relies on a variety of EO-based products which vary depending on the activity. For example, hydropower feasibility assessments rely on a number of EO derived products including, precipitation data, Digital Elevation Models, Stream networks, and land cover data.Aquaculture feasibility assessments are commonly reliant on water characteristics for example, water temperature, water quality, seasonal algae concentrations, and so on.

Monitoring the extent and impact of industrial activities is key to ensuring the environmental integrity of the activity and will usually involve a temporal change component i.e. how the indicator changes over time. Products generated for this part of the service can include the monitoring of a suite of selected indicators like land cover change, hazardous waste pits, sediment loading and deposition, coastal or surface water quality, changes in algal concentrations etc. Generally these services are offered at high-medium spatial resolutions (1-30 m) for feature identification, and coarse resolution (300 m – 1 km) for water quality related products.

Most site for large-scale hydropower projects have already been developed, or at least identified and documented. The emphasis is now switched to developing smaller scale projects that can give access to electricity to more rural and mountainous populations. This service can offer the first line initial assessment for developing small-to-medium scale hydro power stations by identifying favorable sites based on physical and environmental characteristics. These include fast flowing rivers and streams, mountainous regions, and areas with consistent water flow driven by high run-off from rainfall or snowmelt.

Aquaculture is growing sector in many coastal and lake regions. Similar to hydropower activities, maps are made to identify high potential areas with regard to water conditions and suitability. This is balanced with habitat considerations so as to avoid overexploitation of vulnerable ecosystems. Continuous monitoring of water quality can then be used to 1) monitoring the environmental impact of aquaculture and 2) optimize management strategies and manage risk. For example, warning systems can guide appropriate mitigation measures such as stock harvesting of cage movement. The mining industry shares similar environmental management concerns. When a new mine is opened is often require to document and control its activities and environmental impact. Maps can be made that identify change in land cover, vegetation health, the impact of access road development, waste pits, and surrounding water quality.

Known Limitations

For the planning component of this service (i.e. optimal site selection) there is a heavy reliance on multiple EO based products. This means that error is propagated through the analysis where the final product will inherit the error of all input datasets. This reliance makes the analysis vulnerable if any one or more of the products is unreliable. From the monitoring perspective the known limitations are directly linked to other EO services described in this section, see for example sections on:    water quality and temperature monitoring, hydrological network mapping, vegetation and land cover characterization and thematic base mapping. Common limitations are related to data quality, weather conditions, obtaining cloud-free observations, and the difficulty in mapping specific characteristics, e.g. algal blooms with low pigment.


Future enhancements will rely on better quality spatial datasets, and the improved sensor capabilities. Spatial datasets such as river networks can vary in quality and completeness. National surveys departments are working to improve these datasets based in field data and medium to high resolution imagery. Similar improvement to off the shelf dataset such as precipitation estimates and digital elevation models are ongoing. Sentinels 1-3 can each improve the capabilities and accuracy of this service. Sentinel 1 can improve monitoring of water extents and improve land cover feature extraction. Sentinels 2 in combination with Landsat 8 offer much improved land cover mapping capabilities and Sentinel 2 will greatly contribute to improved water quality monitoring.

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