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

Planning - Site planning and urban planning
Location and settlement planning
Relocation of settlements

Relocation of settlements


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

Relocation of settlements has impacts on local natural resources, ecosystems, and biodiversity. Key impacts include the creation of waste and potential air, water, and soil pollution. Settlements are subject to local weather conditions, seasonal changes in temperature and rainfall, and climate change. Relocation activities can exacerbate or mitigate each of these issues.

Gender, age, disability and HIV/AIDS implications
  • Plan meetings to discuss relocation of settlements and potential environmental implications with women, men, and people with a disability based on their accessibility concerns, education, daily work, or chores.
  • Ensure that appropriate location and other sustainable resources necessary for using the shelter do not restrict access for women, children, and those with disabilities.
  • Identify those at risk of exploitation and develop mechanisms through consultation with them to reduce environmental implications during relocation of settlements.


Environmental impact categories

Air pollution
Climate Change
Loss of biodiversity and ecosystems
Natural resource depletion
Soil erosion
Drought / flood

Summary of Impacts
Summary of potential environmental impacts

1. Potential air, water, and soil pollution and disease spread from the creation of waste, waste piping, waste burning.

2. Potential natural resource depletion due to increased demand of items/materials for construction of new structures and to replace existing damaged construction materials.

3. Potential soil loss and desertification and damage to ecosystems from tree cutting and slope clearance – both at the existing and new sites.

4. Generation of greenhouse gases from the transportation of people, existing materials, and new procured materials.

Impact detail
Detailed potential environmental impact information

1. Air, water and soil pollution and disease spread is likely to come from the creation of waste, waste piling, waste burning. Elements such as plastic sheets, tents, and prefabricated units all have the potential to contaminate the surrounding environment during delivery, use and disposal.

2. Local natural resources can easily be depleted due to increased demand for materials for the construction of new structures and to replace existing damaged construction materials. This is also exacerbated when there is a lack of assessment of construction materials at the original camp/settlement and a lack of planning for potential material re-use.

3. In the new camp/settlement, the construction of new buildings (shelters, settlements) contributes to deforestation, draining and filling of wetlands, disruption of groundwater flows, creation of heat islands, and the degradation of the environment in general.

4. Environmental damage is likely to have been caused at the original site.

5. Transportation activities usually create the release of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels that impact the environment by reducing air quality and creating air and noise pollution from combustion, and contribute to long term climate change, mainly due to carbon dioxide (CO2) and water vapor (H2O) products. Emissions from poorly maintained or older vehicles can also increase respiratory diseases.


Summary of environmental activities

1. Assess construction materials at the existing site and plan for their re-use or repurposing. Dismantle shelters carefully, minimising damage to materials. Avoid waste piling and burning.

2. Assess natural resources at the new location and plan for their sustainable use. Source additional materials sustainably.

3. Assess ecosystems, flora, and fauna at the new site. Plan the new settlement to minimise, mitigate or remediate any damage caused.

4. Plan for remediation of the existing site – reinstating vegetation, planting trees, clearing up rubbish, restoring watercourses, etc.

5. Plan efficient transport routes using modern efficient vehicles, and minimising the number of vehicle journeys.

Detailed guidance for implementing suggested environmental activities

1. Air, water, and soil pollution and potential disease spread can be reduced through good practice relocation planning, including careful taking down, moving, and re-use or repurposing of construction materials from the original location to the new camp or settlement. All construction materials should be assessed and planned to be transported and re-used either locally if required, or at the new settlement. Elements such as plastic sheets, tents, and prefabricated units should all be assessed for potential re-use or repurposing and taken down carefully. For example, they can be used to keep out damp or shredded and used to create insulation bales. Shelter waste should never be burned or buried, it is always possible to find methods of re-use, repurposing, or recycling.

1b. Define the correct steps to dismantle shelters and share the guidance with people involved in the process.

1c. If you are planning for the future relocation of a settlement, design shelters so that they are straightforward to construct and dismantle. Also, provide the necessary tools and equipment so the people in charge of dismantling will not opt for alternate tools that may damage the shelter elements. The materials and construction method should allow for easy dismantling, transport, and reuse by the person/organization so as to avoid wasted materials. This is particularly applicable for emergency or transitional shelters due to the high likelihood of mobility of the affected population. Shelters should be designed to be economically and technically viable to repair in order to avoid a state of disrepair and wasted resources for reconstruction support. Unfamiliar designs should be accompanied by community training and support.

2. Local natural resources should be mapped and construction material requirements should be calculated for all shelters and supporting infrastructure and services. Care should be taken to avoid unsustainable use of local resources. Additional construction resources should be procured from sustainable sources.

3. Ecosystems, flora, and fauna should be mapped at the new site, with a clear understanding of interdependencies and fragilities such as likely food chains, pollinator species, dependency on water, sun, shade, breeding areas, watercourses, flood or drainage zones. Such areas should be protected and not constructed on. If the encroachment is unavoidable, the impacts should be assessed and mitigated and enhancements or compensations planned where possible, such as migration conduits under paved roads for small animals; drainage channels or slopes for ecosystem water replenishment.

4. After dismantling shelters, assess the condition of the site and plan to restore it to at least its original condition, or even to plan for environmental improvements such as improved water storage or drainage, or replanting of trees and clean up of rubbish.

5. Plan efficient transport routes that will create the lowest volume of emissions. Plan to use modern efficient vehicles for transport and minimise the number of vehicle journeys. Ensure vehicles are properly maintained and efficiently driven including tire replacement, tire pressures, engine servicing, training, and incentivizing drivers to avoid fast acceleration, braking, and other fuel efficiency techniques.

Lessons Learnt
Lessons from past experiences

Darfur: Relief in a Vulnerable Environment. This document looks at the environmental impact of refugee camps, including unsustainable tree cutting, plastic pollution, and over-abstraction of groundwater and clay to make fired bricks and how these impacts can be restored and also mitigated when planning for relocation.

Activity Measurement
Environmental indicators/monitoring examples
  • Percentage of damaged items is below 15%
  • Remediation actions are taken after moving the shelters
  • Number of closing or exit strategies communicated.
Activity Status
Main Focus
Focus of suggested activities
  • Prevention of environmental damage
  • Mitigation of environmental damage
  • Environmental enhancement
Resource implications (physical assets, time, effort)

Additional time to determine best practices to dismantle the shelters and if not in place, the procurement of the necessary tools and equipment to avoid damages. Also, field and desktop research to assess the damage left by the moved shelters.

Next guidance:

Reuse and recycling
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