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

Enabling activities - Shelter
Strategic Planning - Shelter
Shelter and Settlements projects definition

Shelter and Settlements projects definition


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

Climate change and environmental degradation are driving an escalating number of disasters and vulnerability. This requires radical change across all sectors and systems. For the humanitarian sector, mandated with saving lives and reducing suffering, examining and mitigating its own footprint on the environment should be a clear priority, together with ensuring all of its activities are environmentally sustainable and build communities’ resilience to environmental hazards and disasters.

Integrating environmental sustainability into project planning helps sustainably restore societal functions, services, and the environment they live in. If undertaken with environmental sustainability in mind, recovery and reconstruction can help reduce disaster risk and vulnerability to future hazards and support climate change adaptation. The planning process also provides a good opportunity to address the environmental impacts of humanitarian response operations, which helps to ensure that both communities and the environment can recover in a sustainable way.

Given the strong dependency and interconnectedness of natural resources, the environment, natural hazards, and food security, it is necessary to apply an ecosystem approach and to address the underlying drivers of risk and vulnerability by integrating sustainable environmental and natural resource management practices into DRR efforts that seek to make Shelter and Settlements more resilient.

Gender, age, disability and HIV/AIDS implications

Additionally, the stakeholder analysis should explore ways to equitably share the natural resource capital assets, with particular attention paid to the poorest and most disadvantaged groups and to women, to make sure their needs are met. The analysis should also consider that men and women use and/or have access to different resources.

Targeting women as income providers; and promoting joint household decision-making in income use. This will reduce coping strategies at the expense of environmental preservation.

The management team needs to promote the protection of persons with specific needs (e.g. GBV survivors) and people staying behind. Particular attention needs to be paid to vulnerable cases, and there will be groups at risk who will require special assistance when leaving the site.


Environmental impact categories

Air pollution
Soil pollution
Water pollution
Climate Change
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. Increased vulnerability to environmental hazards

2. Diminished provisioning capacity of local ecosystems

3. Public health risks from pollution from waste

4. Unsustainable shelter activities, exacerbating existing or creating new environmental impacts

5. Loss of natural resources and biodiversity impeding recovery and diminishing community resilience

6. Deforestation, and water and soil degradation.

Impact detail
Detailed potential environmental impact information

1. A key concern from overlooking environmental considerations during programming is the increased future vulnerability of the site to environmental hazards, such as land/soil movements or flooding.

2. The provisioning capacity of local ecosystems can also be diminished, leading to future challenges for food, water, and energy provisioning.

3. Programming activities that do not properly manage (or encourage/facilitate proper management of) waste streams, pollution can also lead to public health risks through vector transmission and/or pollution.

4. Environmental impacts undermine the short- and long-term effectiveness and sustainability of Shelter and Settlement programming outcomes, and can exacerbate existing or introduce new environmental challenges.

5. This can also lead to a loss of livelihoods and biodiversity, impede future recovery efforts as well as diminish community resilience.

6. Deforestation, and water and soil degradation effects as a consequence of responses that do not consider environmental measures


Summary of environmental activities

1. Ensure environmental sustainability is addressed robustly in all shelter programming, including vulnerability to environmental hazards, such as land/soil movements or flooding.

2. Assess and protect the provisioning capacity of local ecosystems

3. Ensure programming activities effectively manage waste streams and other potential pollution

4. Assess the potential environmental impacts and vulnerabilities of shelter and settlement structures and infrastructure such as contributing to or resilience against flooding, drought, landslides, heat waves, extreme storm, extreme rainfall

5. Plan shelter responses to contribute to strengthening community resilience. Consider the protection of biodiversity and providing new alternative livelihoods

6. Assess and prevent deforestation, and water and soil degradation

7. Ensure shelter responses address energy needs, so that communities do not feel forced to unsustainably cut trees.

8. Develop environmental indicators or include environmental elements in the humanitarian sector or project indicators.

9. Engage local (and/or regional) environmental experts (building partnerships), for example from local authorities or universities.

10. Screen planned activities for their environmental impacts and risks – environmental and social safeguards. Develop plans to prevent and mitigate environmental risks identified (See preparedness activity)

11. Aim to generate environmental benefits from your intervention. This is an opportunity to build resilience

12. In protracted crises, making use of local capacities, increase the accountability of the response and root it in the local context

13. Mainstream environment through each technical subsector.

14. Inclusion of environmental safeguards into institutional forms for project proposals (e.g. concerning project description, reporting requirements, etc.)

Detailed guidance for implementing suggested environmental activities

Environmental sensitive project definition will look at mitigating impact or enhancing environmental benefits of the project. The design phase is where Shelter and Settlement project planners can play a critical role in addressing the potential environmental implications of Shelter and Settlement project activities. The project design should reflect the information gathered during the assessment phase in terms of the number of resources that will be used to implement and maintain the Shelter and Settlement activity. Formulate an exit strategy as part of project design.

1. MITIGATE project impacts by modifying the project design, or compensating for negative impacts.

· How can the direct and indirect impacts be reduced/ avoided? Understand the climatic conditions of the project area to foster adapted practices.
· Have you reviewed best practices, case studies, etc. from other organisations doing similar types of activities?
· Have you consulted with the local community/government to identify traditional and environmentally responsible solutions?
· Use secondary data such as reports on environmental determinants of health, air pollution, deforestation, water quality, waste management, mining, agricultural pests, and similar
· Disaggregated data from other sources such as clinic/hospital admissions can tell you a lot about environment and its relationship to vulnerable groups.

2. ENHANCE environmental benefits from your intervention. This is an opportunity to build resilience (e.g. through changes to livelihoods, use of new technologies and environmental management approaches that can contribute to peacebuilding and integration between affected populations and host communities, improved food security, risk reduction, and increased environmental stewardship through training and capacity building).

· After impact assessment and mitigation, what other enhancement measures can be added to the project?
· Can enhancement activities be combined with other sectors?
· Take an ecosystem perspective to ensure the integrated management of land, water, and other key resources that promote conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way.
· Plan for reducing the environmental impact of humanitarian activities and building sustainable activities including green jobs, sustainable energy/water/wastewater treatment, and local
· Ownership will be possible only if concerned stakeholders are part of the solution/activities developed since the beginning. Transition through a joint development plan might be beneficial to ensure sustainability and durability of the approach.
· Consider low cost and low tech approaches to Shelter and Settlement solutions to ensure long term maintenance and use
· Place environmental elements at the centre of infrastructure exit activities. Special attention should be placed on reflecting the landscape and livelihood activities through rehabilitation activities. This can be reflected through specific measures such as tree planting, proper decommissioning of latrines, and the provision of a site plan to the landowners to ensure that water points are not installed near former toilet pits.
· Develop training of government and Local Authority staff on all aspects of the durable solutions and needs of the residual population may be required in order to ensure the capacity of the Camp Management Agency to be an informed and effective lead the process. Training may include, Communications skills, Human rights issues, and IDPs, National laws and policies on IDPs, Protection (including gender and vulnerable groups), Participatory assessments, Data collection, and processing.

Lessons Learnt
Lessons from past experiences

The Shelter Projects 2017-2018 annual publication by the Global Shelter Cluster identified over 27 case studies, that key weaknesses across all the case studies analysed lie in project planning, organizational capacity and preparedness, coordination and partnerships, and procurement and logistics.

These broad weaknesses mentioned above can be prevented, identified, and mitigated when applied through a variety of monitoring and evaluation tools, which can, as needed incorporate or center around environmental factors and considerations, for future projects and response initiatives.

Activity Measurement
Environmental indicators/monitoring examples

# of plans developed to mitigate environmental risks identified;

# of environmental enhancement activities included in the project
Use of environmental and social screening/safeguard tools to define Livelihood activities;

Activity Status
Main Focus
Focus of suggested activities

Prevention of environmental damage

Mitigation of environmental damage

Environmental enhancement

Resource implications (physical assets, time, effort)

Include environmental actors and community organisations with environment-related interests in planning and organisations involved in natural resource management in community consultations and focus group discussions;

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