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
Soil compaction activities

Shelter – Soil compaction 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 and construction activities to be undertaken in a way that does not over compact soil. Overcompacted soil has reduced porosity and therefore reduced capacity to contain water or air, both of which are essential to support flora and fauna.

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
Soil erosion

Summary of Impacts
Summary of potential environmental impacts

1. Reduction in surface water infiltration and groundwater depletion due to excess or unnecessary soil compaction

2. Reduction in soil quality, nutrients, and ultimately soil loss

3. Loss of flora and fauna and impacts on human health

Impact detail
Detailed potential environmental impact information

1. Excessive soil compaction impedes the ability of the soil to hold water. This can increase surface runoff, leading to soil erosion, an increase in the risk of flooding, and soil and water losses, while also reducing the recharge capacity of aquifers

2. Soil compaction also restricts the flow of air within soils, which together with water loss, damages the structure, quality, and nutrients within the soil and ultimately leads to soil loss

3. Reduced quality soil and loss of soil ultimately leads to loss of flora and fauna and impacts on human health


Summary of environmental activities

1a. Plan to avoid or minimise soil compaction

1b. Plan to reduce soil erosion and surface water run-off

1c. Plan soil compaction activities only where essential. Consider alternatives such as raft foundations, short piles, ground bearing beams

2. Soil aeration to reduce the impacts of over compaction

3. Map flora and fauna and plan remedial measures if required.

Detailed guidance for implementing suggested environmental activities

1a. Plan construction activities to minimise soil compaction – this can include assessing ground conditions, avoiding use of heavy machinery, placing of large boards of plywood, branches or steel sheets to spread loads

1b. Plan construction activities to reduce the risk of soil erosion. This may include gentle landscaping to reduce the speed of surface water run-off, or the construction of ground water infiltration drains / bunds / pits

1c. Plan soil compaction activities only where it is essential such as under new roads or structures. Consider alternatives such as the use of raft foundations, short piles, use of ground load bearing beams (which transfer loads to fixed points such as pad foundations)

2. Light tilling or mechanical aeration may help reduce the impacts of over compaction

3. Map flora and fauna and monitor impacts of over compaction on them and plan remedial measures if the loss is observed.

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 storm 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

Percentage of decrease in area of soil compaction activities

Use of alternative non-compacting foundations

Activity Status
Main Focus
Focus of suggested activities

Prevention of environmental damage

Mitigation of environmental damage

Resource implications (physical assets, time, effort)

Time for assessing ground conditions, and planning construction methods to reduce or avoid ground compaction

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