Virtual Environmental and Humanitarian Adviser Tool – (VEHA Tool) is a tool
to easily integrate environmental considerations in humanitarian response. Field Implementation guidances are useful for the design and execution of humanitarian activities in the field.

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VEHA - Field Implementation Guidance

Technical assistance –Transitional shelter and core housing
General construction activities
Construction of roads

Construction of roads


Environmental factors causing/contributing to the needs and affecting the humanitarian activity

Sudden or progressive changes in the local environment often adversely affect the lives or living conditions of people. These people may then be forced to leave their homes. When environmental degradation occurs or natural hazards rapidly impact vulnerable areas, People may be forced to move. Relocation areas require proper infrastructure. The new infrastructure should be built to be resilient and strong enough to endure the impact of future natural or manmade hazards.

Gender, age, disability and HIV/AIDS implications

Marginalised people are often impacted by construction activities, sometimes forcing them to relocate without any consultation. Vulnerable or minority people should always be consulted and their needs accommodated within the responsive design.


Environmental impact categories

Air pollution
Soil pollution
Water pollution
Loss of biodiversity and ecosystems
Natural resource depletion
Soil erosion
Noise pollution
Visual Intrusion
Cultural acceptance
Impact on mental health

Summary of Impacts
Summary of potential environmental impacts

1. Air, water, soil, and noise pollution due to extraction, processing, and transportation of construction materials

2. Materials extraction can damage ecosystems, harming flora, fauna, and human health and wellbeing

3. Unsustainable consumption of natural resources

4. Access routes can lead to the increased exposure of residents to noise, air, and dust pollution

5. Air, soil, and water pollution and ecosystem degradation due to unsupervised or poorly managed construction activities and extraction of natural resources

6. Air pollution due to the environmental impacts associated with transportation of materials

7. Impacts on water resources and water flows due to drainage problems during and after construction

8. Over-compaction of ground reducing drainage and water storage.

9. Development often attracts further development, leading to increased erosion, air and noise pollution, and vehicle emissions

Impact detail
Detailed potential environmental impact information

1. Extraction, processing, and transportation of construction materials often causes air, water, soil, and noise pollution, affecting the health and wellbeing of humans, flora, and fauna

2. Poorly managed or inappropriately located extraction, processing and transportation can harm sensitive ecosystems, leading to loss of key flora and fauna and the benefits they bring to human health and wellbeing

3. Construction materials can consume non-renewable or low-regenerative capacity natural resources. Natural resource extraction includes activities dedicated to the procurement of sand, gravel, rock, oil, natural gas, wood, and other natural materials that are obtained by excavation, drilling, boring, or other methods. Extraction methods usually just deplete the source if done in uncontrolled ways. In addition to that, extraction activities depend on the usage of water, which is also a natural resource affected communities depend on.

4. Access routes to extraction sites and to shelter construction sites can lead to the increased exposure of residents to noise, air and dust pollution. Near-road pollution can have adverse health impacts

5. Air, soil and water pollution and ecosystem degradation due to unsupervised or poorly managed construction activities and extraction of natural resources. Access routes can destabilize local flora and fauna communities by impeding habitat accessibility, essentially bisecting and fragmenting ecological communities. This can also increase the risk of exposure of users and wildlife to each other, endangering one or both parties through poaching, conflict, and/or disease transmission

6. Greenhouse gases are released from vehicles transporting construction materials. Local air quality is also reduced by diesel pollution and dust from transported materials. These all contribute to respiratory disease and have health impacts on plants and animals

7. Construction activities often include constructing hardcore roads and building sub-bases to reduce the likelihood of building and infrastructure settlement. These materials and adjacent soil compaction from their placement can affect surface and groundwater movement, reducing site drainage, reducing groundwater recharge, and sometimes leading to the road, building, or site flooding. Smooth and impermeable surfaces have lower water permeability. This can lead to increased rates of runoff contamination, erosion, and water stagnation. The location, construction, and routing of roads can alter the surface or sub-surface water flow, affecting downstream ecosystems. Poorly planned routes can be at risk of flooding, high rates of water erosion, and the creation of vector-harbouring stagnant water bodies. Routes that cut across steep terrain without following contours or minimizing grades are susceptible to erosion due to their sloping profile. This can lead to increased wear-and-tear as well as increased vulnerability to runoff pollution

8. Construction activities can lead to over-compaction of ground which can reduce drainage, groundwater recharge, and groundwater storage. Poor drainage can lead to water accumulation, causing erosion and sedimentation while also creating potholes (a vector hosting concern) and impeding access

9. Development of housing and infrastructure often attracts further development and leads to increased traffic flow. Higher rates of road use lead to increased rates of wear and tear, air and noise pollution, traffic congestion, and environmental degradation.


Summary of environmental activities

1. Procurement policies to reduce and mitigate environmental impacts of extraction, processing, and transport of materials

2. Careful site assessment and selection to avoid harm to sensitive ecosystems

3. Assess the regenerative capacity of natural resources and of alternative more sustainable resources, including maximising re-use of crisis waste / existing construction waste

4. Plan access routes, and usage timing to minimise exposure of residents to noise, air, and dust pollution

5. Identify fragile ecosystems and plan to avoid or minimise disruption or pollution

6. Efficient transport routes and efficient well-maintained vehicles for materials transport

7. Locate roads to avoid or reduce negative impacts on-site water resources and flooding and avoid blocking migration routes

8. Site assessment, construction planning, and ground protection to avoid over compaction of soil

9. Plan roads for projected future usage

Detailed guidance for implementing suggested environmental activities

1. Ensure clear procurement policies and related contract clauses are in place to compel materials suppliers to assess and mitigate environmental impacts of extraction, processing, and transport

2. Undertake or source professional site assessment and selection to understand environmental sensitivities and ensure avoid or minimise harm to sensitive ecosystems

3. Assess the regenerative capacity of natural resources and identify and test the quality of alternative more sustainable resources. Identify the presence of crisis waste and other construction waste and assess its potential for re-use in construction – much debris can be simply processed for inclusion within road bases, or even crushed for use as aggregate within concrete or tarmac road paving

4. Assess and carefully plan access routes to extraction sites and to shelter construction sites, and times of day when they can be used, to minimise exposure of residents to noise, air, and dust pollution

5. Assess shelter/settlement sites for the presence of fragile ecosystems. Plan to avoid harm to them from constructing directly on them, or from air, soil, and water pollution

6. Plan transport routes and use modern well maintained low emissions vehicles to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Ensure aggregates are well covered and dampened to reduce air pollution with dust

7. Site assessment to ensure roads and other infrastructure location and, construction materials and construction methods cause minimum harm to watercourses, drainage, and groundwater recharge. Using natural contours for services such as roads, pathways, and drainage networks minimises erosion and flooding. Future trends in usage should also be considered, as well as access to cultural heritage sites. Slope design and route planning should consider hydrological implications, with appropriate drainage infrastructure in place. Sedimentation, caused by erosion, can also be a concern. The forecasted usage should appropriately inform the road design. Ensure roads do not obstruct migration pathways.

8. Plan to avoid over-compaction of soil. Ensure assessment of site ground conditions, and implement construction planning/sequencing and ground protection to avoid over compaction of soil

9. Roads should be appropriately planned and designed for the projected usage patterns, in consideration of local development plans and population and industry growth projections.

Lessons Learnt
Lessons from past experiences


Houses in Aceh Besar District, Sumatra, Indonesia, were built after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, as well as a newly constructed seawall that was built as a coastal barrier to protect residents from future tsunamis and storms surges. Unfortunately, the site plan and design for the housing project overlooked the fact that a significant quantity of freshwater flows from inland areas toward the ocean during periods of heavy rainfall and becomes trapped by the seawall before it is released into the ocean. The recurring floods damaged the newly constructed shelter, water and sanitation systems, and roads, and have affected residents’ health and quality of life. As a short-term fix, a costly drainage system was installed. To prevent these types of problems and added costs in the future, project planners need to ensure that there is coordinated planning among a range of stakeholders beyond the immediate project area and must pay particular attention to the broader environmental context.


Activity Measurement
Environmental indicators/monitoring examples

The planning and construction of roads and access integrates environmental considerations

Activity Status
Main Focus
Focus of suggested activities
  • Prevention of environmental damage
  • Mitigation of environmental damage
Resource implications (physical assets, time, effort)

Field and desktop research to understand environmental fragilities of potential sites, proposed infrastructure, construction materials, and construction methods, and to carry out appropriate actions that prevent or mitigate damage to the environment

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