|Environmental Impact of Sudden Population Displacements - Expert Consultation on Priority Policy Issues and Humanitarian Aid (European Commission Humanitarian Office, 1995, 28 p.)|
|4. CASE STUDIES (SUMMARIES)|
There are major funding difficulties for sanitation related projects in the post-emergency phase, emanating from conflicting priorities and limited resources in implementing emergency related projects (how can you harmonise the need to save lives through adequate water and sanitation projects, and ensure that you do not cause long term damage to the environment.
Relief attracts people who may cause environmental degradation enhanced by lack of a co-ordinated inter-agency response during mass displacement crises.
Several suggestions could be put for the way forward, including:
Programme integration: in order to appreciate the overall impact of an emergency programme on the environment, planning, monitoring and evaluation of the various programme elements have to be brought together. Were there are many different agencies involved in the same programme, effective consideration of environmental impact demands strong co-ordination and a willingness on the part of the agencies to accept the role of co-ordinating bodies.
Information, preparedness and consultation: good information already exists in and about many places which are (potentially) subject to large population influxes, in the form of satellite images, aerial photographs, maps, ground surveys and Geographical Information Systems (GIS), etc.. As the data are held by a variety of bodies (government ministries, universities, local development projects, companies, NGOs and defence forces), it is often time consuming and difficult to access and assemble the relevant data when emergencies occur. Desk studies could be made on areas where population movements are likely to occur, so that a basic understanding is developed before the emergency occurs, and for short term decisions with better long term environmental consequences. This could be done by a co-ordinating body such as UNHCR or a consortium of agencies, which could then make the relevant information available to implementing bodies when needed.
Agreed procedures and minimum standards: monitoring and evaluation of programmes should take into account their negative environmental impact. This needs programme objectives and evaluation criteria to be broadened. Environmental monitoring should begin as close to the start of an emergency as is practical, and should be reported on regularly. More effective programme planning, monitoring and evaluation does demand clearer criteria for measurement, and a commitment to provide the resources needed.
More realistic planning horizons: it is generally true that temporary settlements of refugees and displaced people have lifetimes spanning years rather than months. Oxfams response in water supply and environmental sanitation tends to use equipment which may last for many years and to engage the communities involved in a way that produces sustainable management of the infrastructure installed.
Better site selection: the environmental impact of displaced people depends crucially on the location and size of the settlements. Dispersed settlements, whilst being more difficult to service in some cases, provide more healthy places for people to live in and have less negative impact on natural resources nearby.