Shelter and Settlements

Shelter and Settlements

Key environmental issues linked to shelter and settlements programming

Shelter and Settlements

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Shelter and settlements programming carries one of the highest risks of negative environmental impacts in disaster management. However it also represents an opportunity to minimise potential environmental impacts by thorough assessments and robust environmental management. Inappropriately informed, designed or implemented shelter and settlement programming can lead to – but not exclusively – unsustainable rates of deforestation, land and soil degradation, loss of biodiversity, and poorly managed waste streams. This can subsequently lead to a loss of livelihoods, compromised recovery efforts and diminished community resilience.

Shelter and settlements programming can directly cause environmental impacts, for example through material usage, waste generation and construction activities; and indirectly through promoting detrimental interactions between people and the environment. Quality assurance includes promoting environmental sustainability – a component of all quality programming – through shelter and shelter assistance and prevention and mitigation of negative environmental impacts. This is explicitly stated in the Core Humanitarian Standard that recognises minimising environmental impact as a key component of quality humanitarian response. The Sphere Handbook: Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response has a specific standard on Environmental Sustainability in Shelter and Settlements Programming.

Climate change acts as environmental threat and impact multiplier in shelter and settlements programming. Programming needs to acknowledge potential risks, and shelters and siting should reduce exposure and increase resilience to climate variability and change. The capacity of the local environment to provide key services, such as resource provisioning or natural protection against hazards, should be safeguarded.

For a full checklist of environmental issues to consider in shelter programming, consult the checklist on Identifying Critical Environmental Considerations in Shelter Site Selection, Construction, Management and Decommissioning of the Global Shelter Cluster. The NEAT+ (download the tool and guidance here) screening tool shelter chapter can also be used as a checklist of the major issues of concern to factor in while planning a shelter project. Some of the main issues to consider are:

Siting – The shelter location should be in a safe setting with adequate space for provisioning of latrines, water points, washing areas etc. Allow extra space for, and support to, household vegetable gardens to help increase vegetation cover, but also nutrition security. Consider the risks posed to, and by, the surrounding environment, such as protected areas, forests and industry.

Design – Integrate environmental impact analysis in all shelter and settlement planning. Promote energy efficiency by orienting buildings to limit or increase solar heating (depending on the local climate). Incorporating vegetation on the site can promote water retention and reduce flooding.

Materials – Selecting the most sustainable materials and techniques ensures local natural resources are not depleted and lessens long-term environmental damage. Locally available shelter materials are recommended, provided they do not negatively impact the local environment (e.g. unsustainable extraction of sand and gravel from rivers, felling of trees).

Construction – Salvage and reuse, recycle or repurpose materials including debris. Communities trained in construction of their own houses can create new employment opportunities.

Household items – Reduce packaging material or support the reuse of this for other purposes. Distribute shelter material that can be easily reused if relocation occurs. Implement a Solid Waste Management System and promote composting of biodegradable material.

Energy – Establish, restore and promote safe, reliable affordable and environmentally sustainable energy supply systems. Replace the use of fired bricks with Soil-Stabilized Blocks (SSB) or Cement-Stabilized Blocks (CSB). Promote alternatives such as fuel-efficient stoves to reduce use of wood, solar panels for lighting and pumps. Supporting markets for alternative technologies could help a more widespread adoption. Include fuel efficient cooking techniques in trainings.

Resources

Report / Study

Gender, Climate & Security

The impact of Climate Change has already increased the insecurity of vulnerable communities in serval regions across the globe, including exacerbating the loss of livelihoods, food insecurity, competition over scarce resources, human mobility and political and economic instability.

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Guideline

Asia Pacific – DWM guidelines

The Disaster Waste Management Guidelines for Asia Pacific, published by the Japanese Ministry of the Environment, is developed to enhance preparedness for disasters by exchanging information, awareness and human resources during normal (non-hazard) times. The guidelines aims to provide a practical tool during a potential disaster as well as in…

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Guideline

UNDP – Guidance Note on Debris Management

The focus of the UNDP Guidance Note on debris management is to provide urgent post-crisis and post-disaster assistance. It offers practical advice to UNDP Country Offices on how to plan, design and implement short-term projects that effectively connects governments and communities in the process of assessment, clearance, recycling and management…

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Guideline

UNDP – Guidance Note on Municipal Solid Waste Management in Crisis and Post-Crisis Settings

The UNDP Guidance note forms part of a series of UNDP's signature products that aims to respond and support early recovery in immediate crisis and post-crisis contexts with practical advice and guidance to UNDP Country Offices. The objective is to provide guidance on how to plan, design and implement projects…

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Tool

Quantifying Sustainability in the Aftermath of Natural Disasters (QSAND)

QSAND is a self-assessment tool to promote and inform sustainable approaches to relief, recovery and reconstruction after a natural disaster.

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Training Material

Green Recovery & Reconstruction Toolkit: Training Toolkit for Humanitarian Aid (GRRT)

The GRRT is a toolkit and training program designed to increase awareness and knowledge of environmentally responsible disaster response approaches.

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Guideline

Sphere Handbook Shelter Standards

The Sphere Minimum Standards for shelter and settlements are a practical expression of the right to shelter in humanitarian contexts. The standards are grounded in the beliefs, principles, duties and rights declared in the Humanitarian Charter. These include the right to life with dignity, the right to protection and security,…

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Partner

Global Shelter Cluster Environment Community of Practice

The Global Shelter Cluster provides technical advice, including on environment, through the following email address helpdesk@sheltercluster.org…

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Guideline

Green building material selection and use guide

Practical guidelines for environmentally responsible selection, sourcing, use and disposal of construction material.

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Report / Study

Restocking woody biomass to reduce social and environmental pressures in refugee-hosting landscapes

Northwest Uganda, examines the quantity and composition of biomass in the two refugee settlements and the buffer zone around them. It is based on an inventory that counted and identified every seedling and sapling and all standing trees on 234 circular plots and recorded their diameter at breast height (DBH),…

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Case Study

World Agroforestry: Restoring Natural Capital Through Tree-Based Interventions to Deduce Social Tensions in Humanitarian Settings

This document published by World Agroforestry details its initiative in Northern Uganda landscapes. The initiative focused on identifying potential tree-based approaches to protecting and restoring the ecoystem and assessing the enablers for fast-tracking ecosystem restoration in Rhino Camp and Imvepi settlements.

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Report / Study

ECoP Briefing Paper: The Environment and Rights in Poorly Regulated Construction Markets: Considerations for Emergency Cash Based Interventions

This briefing paper published by the Environment Community of Practice (ECoP) revolves around the provision of cash in the aftermath of crisis or during protracted displacement and potential impacts on the environment. The provision of cash can help people access the things they need such as food, shelter or energy.

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Case Study

UNEP – Managing post-disaster debris: the Japan experience

A report conducted by the UNEP regarding the international expert mission to Japan targeting the management of post-disaster debris.

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Case Study

UNHCR – Disaster Waste Recovery, Guidelines for Implementing Cash-for-Work Projects in the Waste Management Sector

The guidelines for implementing Cash-for-Work Projects (CfW) in the waste management sector is an initiative of Caritas, Action Against Hunger and the Danish Refugee Council. They provide guiding principles and criteria for implementing cfW programs in the waste management sector as a means to achieve environmental goals and improve the…

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Case Study

Case study: Philippines Coconut Timber following typhoon Haiyan

Typhoon Haiyan…

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Communication Material

Disaster Rebuilding: Environmentally Responsible Design Principles

Principles for environmentally responsible disaster recovery and reconstruction, developed by the World Wide Fund for Nature Environment and Disaster Management Program.

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Partner

Timber as a construction material in humanitarian operations

Guidance for using timber as a construction material in humanitarian response.

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Communication Material

Environment tip sheet emergency shelter – Sudan

Sudan Crisis…

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Case Study

IFRC, Shelter Country Profiles

IFRC Green Response Project that aims at developing country profiles with a summary of the main environmental issues of concern for shelter and settlements practitioners, that can be used for preparedness or contextualised for informing sustainable response.

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Case Study

Shelter Cluster Sustainable Shelter Solutions pilots

Sustainable shelter solutions applied in the Somalia Crisis…

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Report / Study

IFRC Green Response

IFRC’s Green Response seeks to save lives and reduce suffering without risking damage to the livelihoods, health and survival of affected people and improving the environmental outcomes of life-saving operations.

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Tool

UN Habitat: SHERPA for Sustainable Housing Projects

UN Habitat SHERPA is an easy to use self-evaluation tool for actors involved in the planning, design, construction and assessment of housing projects. SHERPA assesses housing projects, helping to improve sustainability across site selection, the design process, as well as the life cycle and recyclability of building materials used.

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Case Study

Environment and Disaster Management – Investigation of Environmental Issues in Cash Transfer Programming

Project led by LSE Students which investigates the environmental issues associated with cash transfer programming.

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Policy Document

UNHCR Report: Planned Relocation, Disasters and Climate Change

A UNHCR report providing guidance and information regarding planned relocation in relation to disasters and climate change, with the aim to consolidate good practices and preparing for the future.

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