Water and Sanitation (WASH)

Water and Sanitation (WASH)

Key environmental issues linked to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH)

Water and Sanitation (WASH)

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Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programming and the environment are inherently linked and interdependent. Sustainable WASH outcomes cannot be realized where there are poor environmental conditions or practices. A lack of environmental considerations undermines the effectiveness of WASH interventions, for example through the depletion or contamination of water resources.

The consequences of potential environmental impacts from WASH programming extend past water resources. Implementing WASH activities and the continued usage and maintenance of WASH infrastructure can lead to negative environmental impacts such as loss of biodiversity, land and soil degradation and air emissions. Environmental degradation can threaten livelihoods or inhibit recovery activities. Mainstreaming environmental considerations into WASH programming presents an opportunity to preserve and build resilience to future natural and environmental hazards.

Environmental consequences from WASH programming can be externalized to other locations. Transporting solid waste, wastewater or faecal sludge to another location does not resolve the environmental issue. Practitioners need to consider and understand the entirety of the waste and pollution management cycle, particularly the final disposal. Not doing so would be contrary to the do-no-harm principle that humanitarians should abide by.

Climate change introduces many environmental challenges for the WASH sector. Precipitation variability is higher, with increased severity of extreme precipitation phenomena such as floods or droughts. Climate change exacerbates water scarcity in areas already under considerable water scarcity pressures, whilst other areas face increased risk of flooding. Rising sea levels will have significant impacts for freshwater supplies in coastal communities and expanding tropic regions could affect the spread of climate-sensitive diseases.

WASH programs can help build resilience to climatic challenges by promoting climate and environmentally appropriate management of ecosystems that reduce climate risks, and water resources to ensure adequate and sustainable supply to clean water.

To reduce negative environmental impacts, WASH programming should seek to include the following environmental considerations:

 

Resources

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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Guideline

USAID Sector Environmental Guidelines: Water Supply and Sanitation

An overview of best practices drawn from lessons learned in the field over more than 30 years with both participatory approaches and technical design.

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Report / Study

Environmental Best Practice in WASH Operations

This paper describes the main environment-related issues which should be considered and addressed in programs relating to WASH planning and ensuing practices in an emergency operation.

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Guideline

Global WASH Cluster Key Concepts and Considerations in Emergency Response

This paper provides an overview of key concepts and considerations with regards to the environment and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) activities undertaken in emergency operations.

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Guideline

Potential Environmental Impact Checklist for Common WASH Interventions

Checklist for potential environmental impacts of WASH interventions…

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Policy Document

The Sphere Handbook

The Handbook is one of the most widely known and internationally recognized tools for the delivery of the quality humanitarian response…

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Guideline

IUCN: Integrating Environmental Safeguards into Flood Relief, Response and Recovery

Guidance on the integration of environmental safeguards into flood response and recovery by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)…

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Mission Report

Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh: experts assess environmental impacts of Rohingya influx

Mission report by the Ministry of Environment and Forest of Bangladesh on the environmental impacts of the refugee influx in Bangladesh.

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Report / Study

The Sidelined Cross-Cutting Issue: Mainstreaming Environment into the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) Cluster

A masters thesis examining the the current state of environmental mainstreaming in humanitarian assistance with the aim to identify the main barriers hindering the systematic integration of environmental concerns.

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Report / Study

Faecal Sludge Management in Africa

The research paper, "Faecal Sludge Management in Africa: Socio-economic aspects, human and environmental health implications", aims to explore how current trends in faecal sludge management are impacting human and environmental health in Africa (both sub-Saharan and Northern Africa).

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Guideline

Managing solid waste: Sector-specific guidelines for the Red Cross Red Crescent

Developed as part of the RCRC Green Response initiative, these guidelines provide practical, sector specific information on how to better manage solid waste to improve emergency response operations. Key concepts and best practices in solid waste management are presented,…

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Report / Study

Reducing Environmental Impacts of Vector Control Chemicals in Emergencies

Disasters can create environments in which vectors can increase dramatically and spread diseases. However, the chemicals most commonly used to dispose of these vectors can damage the environment and health. This paper provides guidance on how to create post-disaster sanitary efforts that remove the amount of vectors.

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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

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Environmental Considerations

This document links key environmental considerations to WASH projects and provides guidance for good environmental management throughout the project cycle.

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Guideline

WHO Fact Sheets on Environmental Sanitation

A WHO compilation of fact sheets and mitigating processes for water, sanitation, and hygiene education.

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Report / Study

WaterAid: How does WASH help build resilience to climate change?

A WaterAid briefing note explaining why improved WASH services are central to any climate change adaptation strategy…

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Communication Material

UNICEF: Water, Sanitation and Hygiene and Environment

An explanation of the links between WASH and Environment by UNICEF…

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Guideline

WASH Alliance: Environmental Sustainability in WASH

A collection of environmental sustainability tools by the WASH Alliance…

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Report / Study

ACF WASH & Environment Position Paper

A paper on environmental preservation, protection and recovery in WASH programs…

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Guideline

UN Environment Resource Centre – WASH

A collection of different resources on WASH and environment…

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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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Guideline

The Global WASH Cluster and associated toolkits

WASH Cluster Homepage…

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