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.

back to activity

VEHA - Field Implementation Guidance

Technical assistance –Transitional shelter and core housing
Construction of shelters/settlement- Technical assistance –Transitional shelter and core housing



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

Construction of infrastructure, including roads, electricity supplies, water supply, sewerage, drainage, sanitation facilities, all have significant impacts on the environment. They can cause or exacerbate existing flooding problems; create air, soil, and water pollution; damage fragile ecosystems, including blocking species migration pathways. They can contribute to deforestation and depletion of other natural resources.

All of these factors should be carefully considered in site selection, infrastructure design and location, and during construction and maintenance of infrastructure.

Gender, age, disability and HIV/AIDS implications

Recognition of cultural, age-related, and gender-based differences in the use of infrastructure. To maximise the protection of affected persons and to minimise mortality, morbidity, and gender-based violence.

Aligning roads along contours is helpful for sick and disabled persons.


Environmental impact categories

Air pollution
Soil pollution
Water pollution
Loss of biodiversity and ecosystems
Natural resource depletion
Soil erosion

Summary of Impacts
Summary of potential environmental impacts

1. Potential to cause or exacerbate flooding

2. Potential to create air, soil and water pollution

3. Risk of damage to fragile ecosystems, including blocking species migration pathways

4. Possible deforestation and depletion of other natural resources

Impact detail
Detailed potential environmental impact information

1. Poorly planned infrastructure can block the natural pathways of surface water and floodwater, preventing drainage and causing local flooding. Flooding damages shelter and infrastructure kills plants and crops and creates disease vectors that harm the human, plant, and animal health. Flooding can cause severe harm to local ecosystems.

2. Construction, operation, and maintenance of infrastructure can all create air, soil, and water pollution – from construction waste, sewage leaks, rotting food, disease vectors created by piled solid wastes, air pollution from burning waste.

3. Ecosystems can be harmed through the building over or across them, which can destroy species that would normally provide significant environmental benefits such as clean air, wood fuel, food, decomposing waste, and providing resources for other species. Infrastructure can block species migration pathways

4. Construction of infrastructure can cause deforestation and depletion of other natural resources including timber, water, stone, aggregates, sand, peat, all of which other species rely on for survival and breeding.


Summary of environmental activities

Locate sites close to existing infrastructure. Plan for appropriate infrastructure to meet community needs.

1. Designate flood zones; construct drainage channels and slopes; use planting

2. Use sustainable construction materials and construction methods; minimise and manage construction materials and waste

3. Map ecosystems; avoid attempting to relocate ecosystems; locate infrastructure to minimise impacts

4. Sustainable resource sourcing; Natural resource replenishment such as tree nurseries, water harvesting

Detailed guidance for implementing suggested environmental activities

Ensure shelter is supported by appropriate supporting infrastructure, including roads, water supplies, greywater capture, re-use, drainage, electricity, sources of cooking fuel, solid waste management, sewage treatment, and disposal. Sites should be located close to existing transport links, and infrastructure designed to maximise the use of public transport and minimise the use of private vehicles.

1. Sites should be carefully selected to avoid or reduce negative environmental impacts. Flood zones, drainage channels, sloped surfaces, trees, and vegetation planting can all be used to reduce or avoid flooding.

2. Air, soil, and water pollution can all be reduced through a combination of using sustainable construction materials; sustainable building techniques; minimising construction waste – and planning to reuse or recycle unavoidable waste; ensuring construction waste does not enter water courses; avoiding producing piles of solid waste; setting up appropriate construction materials storage and management processes.

3. Risk of damage to fragile ecosystems, including blocking species migration pathways can be reduced firstly by assessing and defining ecosystems – which species and natural resources are present and how are they interdependent. A plan can then be made to avoid disrupting this. Some experts advise relocating parts of ecosystems such as natural resources and species to recreate them elsewhere, however, the major body of knowledge suggests this rarely works in practice. Infrastructure should be located within the site such that it minimises negative environmental impacts, such as avoiding destroying entire species or cutting off interdependent species from each other.

4. Possible deforestation and depletion of other natural resources can be mitigated through sourcing from locations where it causes less harm; sourcing alternative more sustainable resources and planning for resource replenishment such as planting tree nurseries, grey water capture, or rainwater harvesting.

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
  • Number of shelter/ settlement sites where environmental assessments have been undertaken
  • Number of environmental mitigations undertaken
Activity Status
Main Focus
Focus of suggested activities
  • Prevention of environmental damage
  • Mitigation of environmental damage
  • Environmental enhancement
Resource implications (physical assets, time, effort)

Large settlements and infrastructure require the support of environmental specialists to undertake Environmental Impact Assessments. Resources do exist for non-specialists to do assessments of smaller sites. EIA assessments can take days to procure, days to undertake, and days to produce reports. However, this additional time can save time in other design, construction, and maintenance activities

to top
icon-menu icon-close icon-account icon-arrow icon-down icon-back icon-pointed-arrow icon-left icon-up icon-bookmark icon-share twitter facebook2 printer envelope icon-close-alt icon-top icon-loading icons / login