Disaster Risk Reduction

Disaster Risk Reduction

How to include the environment in disaster risk reduction efforts

Disaster Risk Reduction

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Disaster risk reduction (DRR) is based on reducing 1) the scale and frequency of hazards and 2) the vulnerability to damage by these hazards to individuals and society, including social and built infrastructure, the economy and individual livelihoods. Both hazards and vulnerability need to be addressed at the same time for DRR to be effective. Healthy ecosystems such as wetlands, forests and coastal areas, including mangroves and sand dunes, can not only reduce vulnerability to hazards by supporting livelihoods but also act as physical barriers that reduce the impact of hazard events. The extent to which an ecosystem will buffer against natural hazards and contribute to reducing risk depends on the ecosystem’s health and the intensity of the event. Ecosystem-based approaches can be used to reduce disaster risk and should be incorporated into risk reduction during disaster recovery and development programming.

Eco-system approach to DRR

The incorporation of the environment into reducing the scale and frequency of hazards is through an eco-system approach to DRR. Measures can be defined as:

Within eco-system based DRR, opportunities to reduce hazard scale and frequency are identified within the natural environment and compared with costs and impact of hard measures. For example, planting mangroves can reduce wave erosion and intensity on cyclone-affected coasts, at a cost which is less than that of constructing sea walls and other hard structures. The mangroves also provide other ecosystem benefits such as space for small fish to develop and pollution control.

Ecosystem approaches to reducing hazard scale and frequency are often less expensive than hard measures. Unlike some hard measures, such as construction requiring sand and gravel which have direct and potentially negative environmental impacts on the environment, ecosystem-based measures are usually environmentally neutral or positive. In practice, ecosystem-based and hard measures are often combined to create the right mix of costs to benefits in reducing the scale and frequency of hazards. A mix of measures is often due to a need to immediately address specific high threats from hazards (using hard measures), with more time available to address other threats (using soft measures). An example is building a flood retention dam to protect a chemical plant (hard, high cost, immediate impact on reducing threat), combined with reforesting the upper catchment to reduce flood scale and frequency (soft, lower cost, longer term impact) over the long term. Reforestation would increase the usable life of the retention dam by reducing erosion, and have additional ecosystem benefits, including carbon capture, improved slope stability, reduced rock fall damage and improved aesthetics. The WWF Flood Green Guide provides an approach to assessing whether hard or soft measures, or a combination of both, are the most appropriate to reduce hazard scale or frequency.

Within ecosystem-based DRR, reducing vulnerability focuses on:

Vulnerability can be reduced using a combination of hard and soft approaches. A decision to select a vulnerability reduction-focused measure or a hazard scale/frequency reduction-focused measure is based on an assessment of costs and benefits and preferences of those who are vulnerable, as part of the risk assessment and decision-making process. The assessment should be holistic (where damage is rarely reduced through a single intervention), and be sure to cover indirect costs and benefits, as well as social impacts.

Any significant effort to reduce damage from a hazard should undergo at least a basic environmental scoping process to identity direct, indirect and cumulative environmental impacts. This scoping can be useful in identifying ecosystem-based options to reduce expected negative impacts. If the risk reduction efforts are of any size, good practice and regulations likely require a formal environmental review.

Ecosystems’ role in building resilience

In contrast to addressing the potential for damage from a hazard, ecosystems can also build the resilience to disasters by reducing the social and human-scale damage that might occur. The use of ecosystems and the environment should not reduce the potential to use the environment to secure similar benefits in the future, in accordance with the environmental sustainability concept[1]. At a practical level, improving resilience means identifying and addressing ways in which the environment is being used which can:

Conditions are often linked to inequity, poverty, land tenure, population density, displacement and inter or intra state conflict. As a group these broader conditions are often referred to as root causes. The scale and scope of interventions to reduce environmental damage, address root causes and promote sustainability are broad, but comprise the following basic steps:

Disaster recovery efforts should incorporate efforts to reduce the risk of similar disasters in the future, where an ecosystem-based approach involves four steps:

  1. Identify the environmental factors related to a disaster, including (1) hazard scale or frequency, (2) ways the environment has been used before the disaster or (3) damage caused by the disaster to the environment.
  2. Identify which of these factors can be addressed by long term, short term or long and short-term ecosystem measures.
  3. Integrate the short-term measures into near-term recovery planning.
  4. Integrate the long-term measures into post disaster long term recovery or development plans.

For example, following a disaster waste and debris need to be removed as a short-term measure. Post-disaster, waste and debris management can be accomplished through a compensated work to collect, segregate, reuse, recycle, repurpose, renew or dispose of the waste and debris. This work will reduce the negative impacts of unplanned disposal and reduce the need for additional materials for recovery through, for instance, using concrete rubble for road basement, or organic materials for mulch. (See the section on Debris & Waste)

However, if there has been a waste management issue before the disaster, the disaster-related clean up of debris and waste will only have a short-term impact. This is where a longer-term waste management program is needed, to systemize and sustainably collect and dispose of waste as conditions return to normal.

When it comes to development, ecosystem-based approaches offer benefits, not least where they are (1) the most cost effective and (2) provide additional benefits to society and the environment. Much like for DRR, the key questions to be asked in considering a development project’s opportunities for using an ecosystems-based approach are:

[1] “Environmental sustainability addresses responsible programming that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Ignoring environmental issues in the short term can compromise recovery, worsen existing problems or cause new ones.” Sphere Standard 7 Environmental Sustainability, page 270 in The Sphere Handbook: Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response, fourth edition. The Sphere Association, Geneva, Switzerland, 2018. www.spherestandards.org/handbook.

Resources

Guideline

WWF – Green Guide to Disaster Risk Reduction

The WWF Environment & Disaster Management (EMD) program's Green Guide to Disaster Risk Reduction module 9 can be used for disaster risk reduction specialists to increase their awareness of appropriate and useful integration of environmental considerations into risk assessment and risk reduction.

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Report / Study

IUCN, Ecosystems, Livelihoods and Disasters: An Integrated Approach to Disaster Risk Management

This publication by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) outlines the role of ecosystems in the reduction of natural hazard and disaster risk.

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Guideline

GADRRRES: List of Resources for DRR in the Education Sector

The Global Alliance for Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience in the Education Sector (GADRRRES) published resources and guidance for implementing the three Comprehensive School Safety Framework pillars (Safe Learning Facilities, School Disaster Management, and Risk Reduction and Resilience Education)…

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Report / Study

WWF: Building Back Safer and Greener

Nepal Earthquake…

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Guideline

The Multi-cluster Initial Rapid Assessment (MIRA)

The Multi-cluster Initial Rapid Assessment (MIRA) is a joint needs assessment tool that provides a process for collecting and analyzing information on affected people and their needs to inform strategic response planning.

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Policy Document

Global Food Security Cluster website

The Food Security Cluster (FSC) is about enhancing cooperation and partnerships. The FSC works directly with its partners and stakeholders that include NGOs, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, UN organizations, Governments and Donors. The FSC was formally endorsed by the Inter Agency Standing Committee (IASC) on the 15…

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Guideline

Environment in Emergency Response Preparedness

Environment in Emergency Response Preparedness outlines the minimum and advanced environmental preparedness actions that can be taken as part of overall Emergency Response Preparedness (ERP), and follows the Inter-Agency Standing Committee guidance on ERP.

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Report / Study

Environmental Legislation on Disaster Risk Management

Guidance on legal and policy framework from across the world along with special reference to the Indian legal framework and disaster management guidelines…

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Tool

IASC/European Commission, The Index for Risk Management (InfoRM)

The Index for Risk Management (InfoRM) published by the European Commission and the Interagency Standing Committee (IASC) is a composite indicator that identifies the countries at a high risk of humanitarian crisis that are more likely to require international assistance. Core indicators have been chosen to respond to changes in…

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Guideline

UNISDR Guidance Note on Environmental Assessment

This guidance note provides guidance in analyzing the disaster risk-related consequences of potential projects via their impact on the environment and also the potential threat to projects posed by natural hazard…

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Report / Study

UN Environment, Environment and Disaster Risk: Emerging Perspectives

This discussion paper by UN Environment addresses the complexity of risk between environment and human societies.

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Report / Study

UN, Environment and Humanitarian Action in the Age of Global Reform Agendas

This summary is based on previous studies and work conducted by the UN Environment / OCHA Joint Unit and its partners related to integrating environment in humanitarian action. It outlines major humanitarian trends that will shape the future integration of environmental considerations in humanitarian action.

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Report / Study

Evidence on Demand, Mainstreaming Environment into Humanitarian Interventions A Synopsis of Key Organizations, Literature and Experience

This study published by Evidence on Demand reviews a selection of materials on the environment and humanitarian interventions, including disasters and conflict. It considers various actors in the field of environment and humanitarian response, as well as existing knowledge development for managing environmental concerns during humanitarian interventions…

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Report / Study

UN, Opportunities in Environmental Management for Disaster Risk Reduction

This paper published by UN Environment and UNISDR provides an initial introduction of gateways for disaster risk reduction into environmental management and to reviews the application of environmental management tools and approaches for reducing disaster risk.

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Tool

Awareness and Preparedness for Emergencies at Local Level (APELL)

The Awareness and Preparedness for Emergencies at Local Level (APELL) Programme aims to reduce industrial risks at local level, raise awareness and build local capacity to respond to emergencies.

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Training Material

Green Recovery & Reconstruction Toolkit: Training Toolkit for Humanitarian Aid (GRRT)

The GRRT is a toolkit and training program designed to increase awareness and knowledge of environmentally responsible disaster response approaches.

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Training Material

The Nature Conservancy, Coastal Resilience Program

Coastal Resilience is an approach and online decision support tool to help address the devastating effects of climate change and natural disasters published by the Nature Conservancy.

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Partner

Capacity for Disaster Reduction Initiative (CADRI)

The Capacity for Disaster Reduction Initiative (CADRI) is a global partnership composed of 15 UN and non-UN organizations that works towards strengthening countries' capacities to prevent, manage and recover from the impact of disasters.

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Guideline

Rapid Environmental Assessment in Disasters (REA) Guidelines

The Rapid Environmental Assessment Guidelines are a tool which allow for defining and prioritizing potential environmental impacts during disaster situations.

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Guideline

The Environmental Emergencies Guidelines (second edition)

Guidelines developed by the UN Environment/OCHA Joint Unit to help countries receive and provide international assistance in the event of environmental emergencies.

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Guideline

OCHA – Guidelines for Developing a National Environmental Contingency Plan

Guidelines for the development of a national environmental contingency plan provided by UN Environment/OCHA Joint Unit (JEU).

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Case Study, Guideline

Scaling Up Disaster Risk Reduction In Humanitarian Action: Recommendations for the Humanitarian Programme Cycle

The guidance was developed through a consultative process under the leadership of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) in collaboration with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The guidance draws particularly on experience from protracted settings.

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Report / Study

Evaluating Climate Vulnerability in Humanitarian Hotspots

This study, conducted in 2019, focuses on the definition of climate vulnerability with operational and political perspectives and delivers guidelines for assessing climate vulnerability in long-term crises, such as in conflict-affected countries and recurrent disaster-prone areas. The research draws on an extensive academic literature review in the fields of biology,…

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UNEP/OCHA Joint Environment Unit – IKI Project Factsheet

This factsheet provides an overview of the UNEP/OCHA Joint Environment Unit's IKI Project, an inter-agency project which aims to strengthen climate change adaptation in target humanitarian hotspots. The project supports vulnerable communities, internally displaced people, refugees and host communities that face climate-related risks. The projects involves three implementing…

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Case Study

Remote Sensing for Risk Analyses in Fragile Contexts

This study, conducted in 2020, sheds light on a variety of potentials and pitfalls of remote sensing for disaster risk analyses in fragile contexts. This topic gains importance in light of the need to formulate more systemic and better-integrated approaches to risk-informed development. Evidence-based policy recommendations encourage organizational learning and…

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Communication Material

IUCN – From Commitment to Action

This publication by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) provides a briefing on transforming disaster risk reduction with ecosystem management.

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Tool

Flood Resilience Portal

The Flood Resilience Portal is a tool which provides open access to resources to build resiliency to floods. It issues reviews of past responses and provides community-specific flood resilience measurements.

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Tool

Prepare Center

PrepareCenter.org is an initiative established by the Red Cross which provides reports, case studies and training materials to encourage better preparedness for emergencies. It also provides insights and tools to integrate themes such as climate change, environment and urban resilience in disaster preparedness.

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Partner

The Partnership for Environment and Disaster Risk Reduction (PEDRR)

PEDRR is a global partnership comprised of UN agencies, international and regional NGOs as well as specialist institutes that collectively aim to influence policy, enhance implementation and better coordinate efforts in environmental management for disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation and sustainable livelihoods.

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Guideline

UNEP Environmental Needs Assessment in Post-Disaster Situations: A Practical Guide for Implementation

This guidance outlines a post-emergency environmental needs assessment method in order to fully integrate environmental needs within early recovery programming.

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Guideline

GFDRR Post-Disaster/Conflict (Environmental) Needs Assessment

A Post-Disaster/Conflict (Environmental) Needs Assessment (PDN(E)A or PCN(E)A) helps to integrate environmental needs within early recovery programming to develop a more comprehensive and sustainable recovery strategy.

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Guideline

ECLAC Handbook for Estimating the Socio-economic and Environmental Effects of Disasters

The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean manual is a tool for identifying and quantifying damages from a disaster, through a uniform methodology. It also provides the elements necessary to identify those social, economic and environmental and geographical regions that have been more concerned and that…

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Report / Study

ACF WASH & Environment Position Paper

A paper on environmental preservation, protection and recovery in WASH programs…

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Communication Material

UNDP Climate and Disaster Resilience

A collection of resources on disaster and climate risk reduction by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)…

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Case Study

IFRC, Shelter Country Profiles

IFRC Green Response Project that aims at developing country profiles with a summary of the main environmental issues of concern for shelter and settlements practitioners, that can be used for preparedness or contextualised for informing sustainable response.

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Guideline

IFRC, Public Awareness and Public Education for Disaster Risk Reduction

IFRC's Public Awareness and Public Education for Disaster Risk Reduction "PAPE" provides guidance on risk communication.

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Guideline

UNCBD Voluntary guidelines for the design and effective implementation of ecosystem-based approaches to climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction

UN Convention on Biodiversity comprehensive guidelines for the design and effective implementation of ecosystem-based approaches to climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction, including opportunities for the humanitarian sector…

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Tool

Global Wildland Fire Information System

An online repository on fire management information run by the Global Fire Monitoring Centre. It provides policy advising & formulation services and offers information for high-level political activities.

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Tool

Regional Wildland Fire Networks (Global Wildland Fire Network)

16 regional networks which allow actors to share knowledge, expertise and resources regarding wildfire management.

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Tool

Biodiversity and protected areas during wildland fires

Tools provided by the Global Fire Monitoring Center which aim to build the capacity of actors to conserve biodiversity and protected areas during wildfires.

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Tool

Participatory (community-based) Fire Management

Guidelines and a portal by the Global Fire Monitoring Center which aims to integrate community-level action into wildfire preparedness, prevention & response.

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Tool

National Round Tables on Fire Management

Planning instrument for fire management at national level offered by the Global Fire Monitoring Center and the Regional Wildland Fire Networks.

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Tool

Establishment and services of Regional Fire Management Resource Centers

Regional centers run by the Global Fire Monitoring Center, which provides capacity building services and advisory support to hosting countries.

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Tool

Global Wildland Fire Early Warning System

Global Fire Monitoring Center provides an Early Warning System to identify critical time periods of extreme fire danger. This warning system enables communities to prevent and mitigate the dangers of wildland fires before they occur.

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Tool

International support tools / services for wildfire emergency response

The preparedness and response tools for wildland fires made available by the Global Fire Monitoring Center.

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Tool

International and Regional Advisory Services For Fire Management

International and regional advisory services provided by the Global Fire Monitoring Centre and the Global Wildland Fire Network, which offer thematic support for international bodies to devise, design and implement fire management programmes.

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Policy Document

2018 JRP for Rohingya Humanitarian Crises

The Rohingya Humanitarian Crises highlights the close link between protection and environmental factors. The chapter on protection calls for protection planning that takes into account environmental factors.

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Report / Study

UNISDR Background Paper on Disaster Risk Reduction as integral objective of environment related policies and plans

This background paper published by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) highlights the need for integrating disaster risk reduction (DRR) in environmental initiatives and policies. It promotes the synergies between DRR, land use planning, natural resource management and climate change adaptation.

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Guideline

Addendum to the OECD Guiding Principles on Natech Risk Management

The second addendum to the OECD Guiding Principles for Chemical Accident Prevention, Preparedness and Response, which outlines considerations for natural-hazard triggered technological accidents.

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Case Study

The Debate: Climate Change Endangers Security; Can the Military Help Humanity Respond?

This article explores the need for greater linkages and coordination between humanitarian disaster relief organisations and military organizations.

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Guideline

The Minerva Portal – European Commission Joint Research Centre

The MINERVA Portal is a website providing a collection of technical Information and tools supporting EU policy on control of major chemical hazards.

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Report / Study

UNHCR, The Environment & Climate Change Report

A UNHCR publication covering topics such as the impacts of climate change on displacement, climate change, armed conflict as well as the role and challenges of the work of UNHCR.

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