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.
When monitored on a systematic basis, indicators can be useful project management and decision-making tools. Monitoring and evaluation of the outcomes of a response are important to ensure that the effects sought for were indeed delivered, and to help identify possible negative environmental effects in time to allow for an adjustment of activities. It is a necessary part of ensuring that the principle of Do No Harm is fulfilled. Furthermore, evaluation will help identify best practices and lessons learned that offer valuable insight for making improvements in future aid efforts.
Monitoring WASH response and activities at the national and sub-national levels are necessary to ensure that different actors work efficiently and effectively in established coordination mechanisms, fulfill the core functions, support efficient delivery of relevant services and demonstrate accountability to affected people. Monitoring also ensures that the architecture of coordination responds to changes in the context and in coordination needs.
Monitoring activities will identify, among other aspects, if any environmental risks and threats, first identified in the MIRA or other initial assessment, have been exacerbated, intensified, or reduced throughout the lifecycle of the response.
Monitoring teams should be well trained on identifying links between programme activities and the environment, not all of which will be immediately visible. The humanitarian actors should identify ecosystems and specific natural resources, such as forests or groundwater, that might be at risk and that need to be protected throughout the life of the response. These impacts need to be monitored throughout the different phases of the response, starting from the identification phase in survey and assessment.
Mounting evidence shows that advancements in gender equality could have a profoundly positive impact on social and environmental well-being. But if not managed properly, environmental projects can actually spur gender inequality. Without proactively identifying and addressing relevant gender issues, environmental projects have the potential to not only perpetuate disparities but may even widen the gap between men and women. In fact, evidence reveals that there is a correlation between environment and gender; when gender inequality is high, forest depletion, air pollution, and other measures of environmental degradation are also high.
Women are active agents of conservation and restoration of natural resources, as their caregiving responsibilities and livelihood activities are often highly dependent on these resources. Additionally, there is growing evidence that community management of natural resources is improved by having management groups consisting of both men and women.
Throughout the project cycle it is vital to consider gender in relation to access to, and management of natural resources.
Natural resource depletion
General environmental degradation could be due to humanitarian activities that are not suitable for the local context. Pollution and environmental degradation intensify environmental health risks and create harmful living conditions. Pollution of the water, soil, and air is a threat to human health and wellbeing and exacerbates poverty and inequality. Pollution also affects animals and plants, thus degrading natural ecosystems and their ability to provide essential natural services and resources for society. The economic burden of pollution is significant, and the cost of rehabilitation of degraded environments is often prohibitive.
Existing natural resources need to be managed effectively and sustainably within the site of the response and in the surrounding area, for the benefit and safety of the displaced population and host community. Monitoring activities throughout the lifecycle of the response will need to address potential changes and degradation in these natural resources to ensure the response is sustainable and that popular engagement in protecting such resources is widely known and disseminated.
Reliable, accurate data on the environment is often not readily available during humanitarian responses. However, collecting this information at baseline, mid-term, endline, and during regular monitoring activities is often critical to ensuring the success of the overall crisis response. This data can be used to strengthen humanitarian activities, often without any additional cost. Without this monitoring humanitarian activities are likely to be depleting natural resources at an unsustainable rate; degrading ecosystems; polluting water, air, and soil, and unnecessarily contributing to climate change.
A lack of environmental baseline data seriously hampers future monitoring of environmental issues. If they are not assessed and addressed within the design of humanitarian activities from the outset, there is considerable risk that the impacts of an intervention will result in a substantial loss of natural resources which would be expensive or even impossible to reverse. Every effort should therefore be made to ensure that relevant environmental data is gathered and analysed as early as possible in humanitarian intervention.
The nature and scale of these concerns will vary according to the physical location and nature of the response. Specific considerations will need to be made at the various stages of the Humanitarian Project Cycle and will require careful analysis to modify existing tools and best practices to the particular context. It is essential to carry out an initial, rapid, environmental assessment as soon as a site is considered, and certainly before selecting/designing final interventions.
Periodic and regular attention should be given to activities addressing the environmental consequences of water extraction, waste disposal, vector control, or other services. Humanitarian actors leading the response have to be mindful that negative prioritising emergency response over consideration of environmental impact can ultimately lead to making the affected populations even more vulnerable than they were prior to the initial crisis. Regular monitoring of the environmental impacts and early identification of any environmental risks and threats can be an indication of the overall success of the response.
Here are few steps you can follow for integrating environment into sector monitoring:
1. Ensure environmental assessment findings are incorporated into project activities and addressed in coordination and implementation. Monitor the environmental dimensions of indicators developed and make use of environmental sources of verification, including proxy data;
2. Involve local environmental actors in the development and implementation of activities, including through community accountability mechanisms and consultations – integrate environmental questions into accountability monitoring and communication with communities;
3. Highlight environmental points in communications, donor reporting and lessons learned exercises;
4. Generate environmental benefits through your activities (e.g. technology transfer, improved practices, strengthened social capital using the environment as a “bridge”, livelihoods or cash for work activities that address local environmental problems, etc) and guarantee sustainability through hand over to and ownership by the local community.
The selection of appropriate indicators will depend upon thorough problem analysis and definition of programme and project objectives. Choose those indicators that most closely correspond to the goals of a programme or project, based on cultural, environmental, and/or agro-ecological contexts. Below are examples of WASH/environment related activities.
A range of ecosystem restoration measures can be taken to support WASH services and livelihoods:
· Combining water and land management
· Protect critical mountain slopes, wetlands, and forests to maintain springs and control soil erosion. For example tree planting and stone stacking.
· Demarcate wetlands to prevent encroachment. Provide compensation to affected families with alternative livelihood options
· Allocate specific spaces for specific uses, such as water fetching, washing, harvesting of reeds and medical plants
· Remove siltation
Addressing pollution. Implement point-source pollution treatment and prevention plans. For example, replace leaky latrines and strategically relocate them to avoid any pollution of clean water sources. Develop financial, legal, and institutional incentives for non-point source pollution prevention, for example, Payment for Ecosystems
Conserving biodiversity. Maintain or restore habitats of (freshwater) species by allocating ‘recovery’ places within the ecosystem – meaning agreed spaces with no human interaction where fauna can mate, breed and forage. Introduce vegetation and species that are sympathetic to the water quality and quantity.
Rain Water Harvesting. Recharge, Retention, Reuse: Recharge, Retain, Reuse (3R) of rainwater is one sustainable and environmentally friendly way to provide people with water. 3R allows you to use the catchment itself as a buffer to store water without having to apply expensive and environmentally unfriendly technical solutions. 3R stands for the three elements required to store, manage and utilise water:
· Recharging water involves the application of techniques for restoring groundwater levels by letting rainwater penetrate back into the ground.
· Retaining water involves storing rainwater to ensure that the water does not flow away, but is captured in the area and made available when needed.
· Re-using rainwater involves using and reusing water for multiple purposes.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle of Waste (Flows) – Incorporating Reduce, Reuse and Recycle practices in your WASH project can help you to:
· Reduce pollution and spillage
· Recycle waste and sewage
· Reuse waste and sewage water flows
Integrated Sustainable Waste Management (ISWM) can help you to turn your Reduce, Re-use, and Recycle ideas into practice.
What does ISWM do?
· It promotes technically appropriate, economically viable, and socially acceptable waste management solutions that do not degrade the environment.
· It promotes the development of a waste management system that best suits the society, economy, and environment in a specific location.
· It provides a practical tool to look more in-depth at the actual needs of the people. This way, it helps local governments and their technical staff to go beyond the simple importation of Northern waste management models, systems, and technologies.
Low Cost, Low Maintenance, and Environmentally Friendly Technologies – When dealing with water and sanitation, a wide range of technologies are at hand. To choose the right technology, you need to take into account the outcome of your landscape assessment. Depending on this outcome, a combination of natural and man-made solutions can be selected. At the same time, it is important to consider the costs, maintenance requirements, and environmental friendliness of the technologies.
Choosing sustainable drinking water and sanitation technologies requires awareness on the following five aspects:
· The costs of the technologies. It is wise to make use of options that can be locally financed and that are already available on the local market.
· The availability of specific low maintenance technologies and the maintenance capacities of local mechanics or plumbers.
· The risks of groundwater depletion. With today’s sophisticated extraction technologies, the risk of pumping too much water increases significantly.
· The location of your project, to reduce the chances of water pollution. For instance, by placing sanitation systems downstream from human settlements and upstream from agricultural activities, you can avoid possible drinking water pollution and reuse the waste flows for agriculture fertiliser.
· Protection of springs and wells from pollution from their immediate surroundings. You can think of protecting their surroundings from normal runoff and during floods; keeping animal husbandry and latrines at a distance of drinking water; or launching waste management initiatives.
Resource mobilization and fundraising do not have to be restricted to the financial assets determined in your RM strategy. The case study below shows an example of how in-kind contributions after the Indian Ocean earthquake of 26 December 2004 fulfilled the goal of Build Back Better.
“The earthquake reached a 9.3 on the Richter scale and the ensuing Tsunami affected about a dozen nations and resulted in hundreds of thousands of casualties, jeopardized livelihoods of the survivors and destroyed their source of income, fishing. After an intensive process of identifying recipients and with international donations, FAO delivered a variety of fishing equipment to help restructure damaged fishing vessels and enable fishermen to go back out to sea, return to their craft and ensure food security in many communities. By providing in-kind contributions, FAO was able to enable the local population to conduct their own recovery activities and even reach productivity levels superior to those prior to the tsunami.”
Major findings of the research are:
SEA allows finding completely new solutions
SEA allows avoiding errors
SEA allows avoiding conflicts
Environmental protection strategy developed and implemented (yes/no)
# of WASH activities that have been reviewed and strengthened to ensure they are not harming or are benefiting the environment
# of individuals implementing climate-resilient land management practices as a result of project work
Prevention of environmental damage
Mitigation of environmental damage
Understanding of how and when to use environmental impact assessments.
Human capacity to produce a situational analysis and identify the influencing environmental impacts in light of the relief/development activities;
Ability to disseminate and share results and information;
Involve national and local environmental actors in needs assessment planning and analysis. Ask for their help in identifying parameters to assess;
Seek advice from global sector environment communities of practice, where these exist.