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.
Over the past two decades, the nature of humanitarian crises has gradually become more protracted, unpredictable, and complex. Crises are increasingly exacerbated by factors such as climate change, environmental degradation, rapid urbanisation and industrialisation, and by the overlaps between disasters, conflict, and fragile situations.
Faced with these growing challenges, the humanitarian community needs to adjust its practices and tools in order to provide a more effective early response (DG ECHO).
Every community, and therefore every country, faces a variety of hazards and disaster risks that may result in environmental emergency situations. The potential impacts from these man-made (technological) and/or “natural” hazards may vary substantially depending upon the characteristics of the community and its access to preparedness and emergency response resources.
Although their causes can be different, the result of environmental degradation can be the same as that of climate-related hazards, and they can be made more severe by climate change. For example, climate change can increase the risk of landslides through increased heavy rain over time. Deforestation, particularly on hillsides, can also increase the risk of landslides by destabilising the soil. Furthermore, climate change impacts and environmental degradation can also exacerbate existing tensions, increasing the risk of conflict and can therefore be seen as “threat multipliers”.
Preparedness helps save lives and minimise adverse impacts resulting from (environmental) emergencies at a local level.
As an activity ongoing throughout the Humanitarian Programme Cycle, preparedness should always consider environment. The main objective of an emergency preparedness plan is to protect lives and the environment by reducing the incidence and severity of hazards and the potential impacts of both industrial accidents and natural disasters.
It is usually people who hold the least power – the poor, minorities, elderly and sick who are forced to live on marginalised land including proximate to human-caused environmental hazards. They should be consulted, involved in decision-making, and supported to be protected.
Natural resource Depletion
Close proximity of people to existing environmental hazards and to human-made environmental hazards
The location of humans in close proximity to naturally occurring environmental hazards can put them and the environment at risk. Natural hazard events may include earthquakes, tsunamis, cyclones, floods, landslides, and extreme weather events.
Human-made hazards, such as denuding slopes, mining, poor road, building, or infrastructure construction; increase in frequency or intensity of extreme weather events due to climate change; unsafe or polluting industry or unexploded munitions can all have significant impacts on people and the environment and on WASH infrastructure.
Preparedness allows for an early and efficient response, helping save lives, reduce suffering and pre-empt or decrease the extent of needs. In this way it lessens the impact of a hazard and/or threat and contributes to resilience:
1. Profile and monitor environmental risks in the area of implementation or area of interest
2. Assess risks, vulnerabilities, and capacities for integrating the environment into humanitarian action.
3. Identify and facilitate the involvement of environmental actors in preparedness/coordination structures
4. Include environment in emergency training and exercises
5. Develop environmental emergency contingency plans and/or include environmental factors into contingency plan (using all of the above activities)
6. Mainstream environment in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation plans/projects.
Preparedness is achieved by first promoting awareness of hazards and risks and then addressing them at the local level with a focus well beyond simply responding after an accident or disaster occurs. In a preparedness plan, accident prevention, disaster risk reduction, mitigation of possible consequences, emergency response and community recovery are all important elements and each of these elements can be improved. This includes:
· Identifying stakeholders and engaging them in developing preparedness plans.
· Assessing the community profile, its environment, defining hazards, risks, vulnerabilities, and potential impact and capacities. Make use of existing environmental databases and networks such as climate data, the location of protected areas, vegetation/land cover, measurements of pollution (including information on areas hosting hazardous and toxic materials), topographical and hydrological data, biodiversity levels, availability of natural resources, and natural hazard data. Data can come from all sorts of sources.
· Engage local environmental and conservation NGOs and communities in emergency preparedness work, for example, those working on water resources, sustainable forestry, and solid waste management. Note that such environmental actors might not always be present, making community consultants an even more important resource
· Include environmental local actors in training strategy, exercises, and simulation. Ensure they know their role and added value in emergency preparedness.
· A risk-informed approach is crucial to reduce the humanitarian needs caused by risks. A needs-based approach must consistently integrate risk assessment and analysis. This allows existing and potential risks to be evaluated and action taken before a crisis hits or a situation deteriorates, thus reducing suffering and humanitarian needs. Identify capacities, gaps, and ways to address those gaps.
· Prioritise Anticipatory and Early Actions and make sure environmental triggers are well identified and integrated into contingency plans.
Environmental data in strengthening response – the case of Nepal:
On 25 April 2015, Nepal was struck by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. This was followed by a 7.3 magnitude earthquake on 12 May 2015. These earthquakes resulted in over 7,800 deaths and widespread damage and destruction.
A large-scale international humanitarian response effort was mobilized thereafter. Environmental mainstreaming into the response effort was largely facilitated by an environmental assessment and the subsequent strategic sharing and dissemination of the data findings by environmental actors.
The Nepal Ministry of Science, Technology, and Environment; World Wildlife Fund (WWF); and Hariyo Ban (a consortium of environmental actors) initiated a rapid environmental assessment of earthquake-affected areas. The assessment consisted of a desk review, field observations, focus groups, and stakeholder consultations. The collaboration between different actors facilitated access to a greater range of networks and data sources, considerably benefiting data collection and analysis.
OCHA facilitated the sharing of the preliminary findings by WWF at an inter-cluster coordination meeting. This marked a noticeable increase in environmental awareness amongst clusters. This provided an entry point for WWF and Hairyo Ban members to follow up bilaterally with individual clusters, leading to the development, dissemination, and operationalization of cluster-specific guidance documents for the integration of environmental considerations into response programming. The data from the assessment was shared online and bilaterally with relevant parties, enabling individual actors to adapt their response activities accordingly.
# of community preparedness plans which include environmental dimensions
Prevention, mitigation of environmental damage, and Environmental enhancement
Time for vulnerability/capacity assessments, risk mapping, and developing preparedness plans in consultation with communities and other actors.