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

Water supply, Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion (WASH)
Construction and material sourcing
General construction and material sourcing
Land clearing activities

WASH – Land clearing activities


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

Sudden or progressive change in the environment adversely affects the lives or living conditions of people who may have been displaced from their origin. When environmental degradation occurs or sudden onset hazards impact vulnerable areas, people may be forced to move and relocate to areas that then require new infrastructure. The new infrastructure should be built to be resilient and strong enough to endure the impact of future natural hazards.

Gender, age, disability and HIV/AIDS implications

Minority, poor and sick people, along with the very old and very young, rarely have any choice regarding land clearance. They should be consulted and their needs considered in all instances.


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

Land loss, damage to ecosystems, air pollution, soil pollution, water pollution, desertification, loss of biodiversity and ecosystems, natural resource depletion, destruction of natural drainage, soil erosion, soil compaction and reduction in groundwater recharge are all possible due to land clearing activities.

Impact detail
Detailed potential environmental impact information

Poorly managed site clearance activities often result in the 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.

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

Design environmentally sustainable site clearance minimising clearance

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

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

Map watercourses and groundwater conditions, plan to prevent adverse impacts

Detailed guidance for implementing suggested environmental activities

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.

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

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)

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

When people want to use a patch of land – for farming, development, or some other purpose – they cut down the trees in that area. Food production is the most common reason for land clearing. This land clearing, also known as deforestation, often occurs so people can raise cattle or other meat sources for consumption, or grow plants for palm oil or soya production.

Deforestation has devastating impacts on the environment on both a small scale and a global scale. In the immediate vicinity, land clearing destroys and fragments habitats, endangers animals, increases soil erosion, contributes to pollution, increases flooding risk, and even exacerbates the effects of climate change. This has happened in many countries including the Amazon and Congo rainforests.

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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