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.
Over the past two decades, the nature of humanitarian crises has gradually become more protracted, unpredictable, and complex. Crises are increasingly exacerbated by factors such as climate change, environmental degradation, rapid urbanisation and industrialisation, and by the overlaps between disasters, conflict, and fragile situations.
Faced with these growing challenges, the humanitarian community needs to adjust its practices and tools in order to provide a more effective early response (DG ECHO).
Every community, and therefore every country, faces a variety of hazards and disaster risks that may result in environmental emergency situations. The potential impacts from these man-made (technological) and/or “natural” hazards may vary substantially depending upon the characteristics of the community and its access to preparedness and emergency response resources.
Although their causes can be different, the result of environmental degradation can be the same as that of climate-related hazards, and they can be made more severe by climate change. For example, climate change can increase the risk of landslides through increased heavy rain over time. Deforestation, particularly on hillsides, can also increase the risk of landslides by destabilising the soil. Furthermore, climate change impacts and environmental degradation can also exacerbate existing tensions, increasing the risk of conflict and can therefore be seen as “threat multipliers”.
Preparedness helps save lives and minimise adverse impacts resulting from (environmental) emergencies at a local level.
As an activity ongoing throughout the Humanitarian Programme Cycle, preparedness should always consider the environment. The main objective of an emergency preparedness plan is to protect lives and the environment by reducing the incidence and severity of hazards and the potential impacts of both industrial accidents and natural disasters.
Preparedness plans should be written in consultation with people who have specific vulnerabilities and also with the input of older people and any indigenous people, both of whom may hold valuable knowledge about how people’s nutritional needs were met from environmental resources in the past.
Natural resource depletion
Close proximity of people to existing environmental hazards and to human-made environmental hazards
The location of humans in close proximity to naturally occurring environmental hazards can put them and the environment at risk. Natural hazard events may include earthquakes, tsunamis, cyclones, floods, landslides, and extreme weather events. Human-made hazards, such as denuding slopes, mining, poor road, building, or infrastructure construction; increase in frequency or intensity of extreme weather events due to climate change; unsafe or polluting industry or unexploded munitions can all have significant impacts on people and the environment and on WASH infrastructure.
Preparedness allows for an early and efficient response, helping save lives, reduce suffering and pre-empt or decrease the extent of needs. In this way it lessens the impact of a hazard and/or threat and contributes to resilience:
1. Profile and monitor environmental risks in the area of implementation or area of interest
2. Assess risks, vulnerabilities, and capacities for integrating the environment into humanitarian action.
3. Identify and facilitate the involvement of environmental actors in preparedness/coordination structures
4. Include environment in emergency trainings and exercises
5. Develop environmental emergency contingency plans and/or include environmental factors into contingency plan (using all of the above activities)
6. Mainstream environment in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation plans/projects.
Preparedness is achieved by first promoting awareness of hazards and risks and then addressing them at the local level with a focus well beyond simply responding after an accident or disaster occurs. In a preparedness plan, accident prevention, disaster risk reduction, mitigation of possible consequences, emergency response and community recovery are all important elements and each of these elements can be improved. This includes:
EFICOR has worked with many communities across India in developing disaster management plans. They have facilitated communities in identifying local environmental hazards and developing their own disaster management committees and contributing to Area-based Disaster Management Plans. This has led to the establishment of many cyclone and flood shelters, first aid committees, and evacuation drills, saving thousands of lives as floods and storms have hit.
# of community preparedness plans which include environmental dimension
Prevention, mitigation of environmental damage, and Environmental enhancement
Time for vulnerability / capacity assessments, risk mapping and developing preparedness plans in consultation with communities and other actors.