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
Land clearing activities

Shelter – Land clearing activities


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. This requires land clearance to be undertaken in a way that is not polluting and not damaging to sensitive ecosystems, flora and fauna and that does not increase human vulnerability to environmental 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 response design.


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. Land loss due to land clearing activities

2. Ecosystem degradation

3. Air, water, and soil pollution

4. Water resource depletion or flooding

Impact detail
Detailed potential environmental impact information

1. Poorly managed site clearance activities often result in clearance of trees and other vegetation, which can lead to erosion from water movement, vehicle, and pedestrian movement, and wind. This increases vulnerability to flooding and landslides

2. Poorly managed site clearance can also lead to degradation in soil quality, loss of soil biota, organic matter, and nutrients, greatly reducing the capacity of the soil to support flora and fauna. This can lead to local, or contribute to widespread desertification, which directly reduces the ability of communities to feed themselves. Encroachment into natural areas can also increase the risk of exposure to pathogens and viruses which spread between humans and animals, as well as the loss of biodiversity and natural resources, bringing disease or destruction into fragile ecosystems

3. Poorly managed site clearance can directly pollute the air, water, and soil through creating dust, releasing pathogens, or importing pollutants

4. Poorly managed site clearance can obstruct or divert watercourses, over compact soil reducing infiltration and groundwater recharge; and can divert water to cause flooding which can spread disease


Summary of environmental activities

1. Design environmentally sustainable site clearance minimising clearance

2. Map vegetation and ecosystems plan to protect them. Ensure clearance is staged and well managed with only indigenous species used in any replanting

3. Assess potential for air, water, and soil pollution and plan mitigations

4. Map watercourses and groundwater conditions, plan to prevent adverse impacts

Detailed guidance for implementing suggested environmental activities

1. Prepare and supervise the implementation of effective site clearance plans, minimising the areas cleared; minimising tree cutting and vegetation clearance. Plan to minimise vehicle and pedestrian movement over bare earth. Assess and plan for flooding and landslide risk.

2. Map vegetation, ecosystems, and sample soil quality, and plan to protect it. Where large-scale land clearance is essential, plan it in stages and re-vegetate exposed areas where possible, as quickly as possible. Ensure any replanting uses local plants and does not introduce invasive species that can harm other plants, animals, and ultimately humans

3. Assess potential for air, water, and soil pollution. Implement activities to reduce dust (e.g. water spraying or excavating only whilst soil is damp (e.g. in the morning dew or the wet season)

4. Identify and map watercourses and assess groundwater conditions. Plan construction activities to ensure soil is not over compacted and watercourses are not obstructed or diverted unless very careful planning can ensure this will not lead to adverse effects (this is very hard to ensure). Consider constructing rainwater catchment and infiltration pits; constructing roads with permeable surfaces or gentle cambers with side drainage designed to recharge groundwater.

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

Low % of land cleared for construction

Proportion of revegetation using native species

Percentage of decrease in area of land clearing activities

Percentage of denuded areas revegetated

Activity Status
Main Focus
Focus of suggested activities

Prevention of environmental damage

Mitigation of environmental damage

Environmental enhancement

Resource implications (physical assets, time, effort)

Time for site mapping and developing sustainable clearance and revegetation plans

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