An absolutely fascinating article by Declan Butler for Nature.com shows how public availablility of high resolution imagery actually saves lives in disaster areas such as Kashmir — and how in the aftermath of the Kashmir quake the Pakistani government is directly hampering relief efforts by banning free access to such imagery, because it is afraid of revealing military secrets that India can in any case already see with its own satellites.
It’s a stupid and tragic demand by the Pakistani government, but aid agencies need its cooperation, and thus have been forced to comply by removing the availability of the images.
Google to the rescue?! Yes, since late last week as part of Global Connection, but with a major caveat — the imagery they have access to is not the best available, because Google’s provider, DigitalGlobe, has had bad luck with the weather when its satellites passed over the quake zone (according to Declan, who spoke with them). The best data currently is by SpaceImaging.com, apparently.
[Update 16.32 UTC: Declan just emailed the following: “I’ve just confirmed that a note went round from the UN to its parners this morning, noting that after negotiations with India and Pakistan it was reversing its decision of 10 October to ban publicly-accessible images, so images are now starting to appear on UN and partner websites…” That’s a whole week in which aid was needlessly hampered, but at least reason prevailed in the end.]