|Environmentally-Induced Population Displacements and Environmental Impacts Resulting from Mass Migrations (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) / Alto Comisionado de Naciones Unidas para los Refugiados (ACNUR), 1996, 128 p.)|
|Extracts of Main Contributions|
ENVIRONMENTAL REHABILITATION IN REFUGEE AREAS CASE OF AFGHAN REFUGEES IN EASTERN IRAN
Following extensive damage caused to rangelands in part by the massive presence of Afghan refugees, particularly in the neighbouring province of Khorasan, the South Khorasan Rangeland Rehabilitation and Refugee Income-Generating project has been initiated in 1989 by UNHCR and the Iranian government, with the technical assistance of IFAD.
Of the 140,000 ha of the total project area, 68,500 ha required immediate curative action. The target group comprised 42,500 persons of whom 35000 were Afghan refugees.
The project which was to serve an important testing and pilot function, addressed the issue of the rehabilitation of a highly deteriorated environment and of providing financially self-sustaining activities targeting a high percentage of refugee labour.
The following observations are derived from the comprehensive joint UNHCR/IFAD final evaluation of the project, carried out in May-June 1995.
Results achieved by the project
The project has provided 445,000 man/days of jobs. It implemented environmental protection, conservation and rehabilitation activities over 36,000 ha, of which 12,000 ha of sand dune stabilization, 4,000 ha of agro-forestry and 20,000 of range rehabilitation. The achievements regarding soil and water conservation have been modest.
Impact of project activities
The following careful interpretations are derived from the rapid appraisal of the environmental impact of rehabilitations activities.
· wind and water erosion have been contained and brought to a standstill, though not yet entirely overcome
· the rather large number of species observed on rehabilitated rangeland and dunes, seems to be a clear indication of a dynamic recovery, in terms of biodiversity
· the carrying capacity of rehabilitated as well as non rehabilitated rangelands is very variable, indicating that the present levels of biomass production may be more closely related to the initial state of degradation and the present degree of soil fertility, than to any other factor. The positive impacts on range recovery and, to some extent on the carrying capacity, seem to be more imputable to the protection effect provided, following withdrawal of livestock than to the supposed protective action generally attributed by local technicians to the Haloxylon and Atriplex shrub plantations. This gives an indication of the degree of resilience of natural resources, which should always be considered when dealing with rehabilitation.
Findings and conclusions
Notwithstanding the difficulties encountered during the course of the project, the experimental approach attempted by UNHCR must be globally seen as a positive test.
- The project has achieved appreciable results in terms of protection and rehabilitation activities.
- The project represents an original strategy to a new concept of interventions, under which the international community, represented by UNHCR, expresses its solidary action by sharing the host countrys burden in addressing critical refugee induced social and environmental issues. The projects overall approach is correct, as it attempts to make responsible use of an otherwise idle and assisted refugee population, and to preserve the environment through a formative and comprehensive set of rehabilitation activities.
- The sustainability of the projects achievements will be largely dependent upon its ability to integrate the national administration network. So far, the conditions for sustainability have not been gathered, as the present protective measures are not sufficient to certify a durable sound utilisation of rehabilitated areas.
- Many questions concerning the most appropriate approaches to range rehabilitation and utilisation, agro-forestry, soil and water conservation, are still left unanswered. They require time and must be supported by monitoring and experimentation in order to provide the correct responses.
The conventional implementation routine should give way to a more sophisticated approach to project continuation. Curative actions must be completed by proper maintenance, utilisation and management schemes, the burden of which ought to be shared by the beneficiaries, in partnership with government institutions.
The vision of the projects future should be broadened and emphasis put on its potential pilot role at national as well as regional level.
Sustainability of actions should be targeted by undertaking the following:
- launching a real time observation and monitoring system, making full use of the GIS available at the Forest and Range Organization (FRO)
- designing and testing management schemes for the sustainable utilisation of rangeland and sand dune biomass
- introducing and/or improving agro-forestry practices, soil and water conservation techniques, sustainable water management practices elements
- introducing field experimentation for the development of tools aiming at optimum rehabilitation and utilisation practices
- emphasizing the role of extension in raising awareness among farmers and livestock owners and training them in the utilisation of sustainable land-use practices
- setting-up a well coordinated network system involving research institutes, universities, various ministerial departments, NGOs and International Organizations involved in natural resources development
- decentralizing project management and administration
Regarding project design, the following observations and recommendations were made:
- when facing extensive and urgent environmental needs, the common tendency and/or understanding may be to design large scale and short-term curative environmental projects. However, taking into consideration the fact that:
* environmental degradations are generally induced by social problems
* rehabilitation requires well tested and adapted social, technical and scientific solutions and approaches which are not always readily available
* withdrawal of natural resources from utilisation for rehabilitation purposes should be gradual and negotiated between the locals, the refugees and the project
* beneficiaries require proper training to assume their future responsibilities
Given all of the above, the only sure way to achieve durable rehabilitation and management, is to design projects for the long-term, with extension phases of reasonable magnitude.
- future projects should not be based on segration between locals and refugees as was the case in this project which defined better the needs of the refugee community, not stressing sufficiently the fact that the ultimate beneficiaries are the local communities. Therefore, development efforts should concern and include all users and beneficiaries, locals and refugees alike, facilitating refugee integration
- risks should be better assessed when dealing with refugee population as they are often mobile communities which may be repatriated during the projects life. Alternative solutions should be considered in advance to complete project implementation with the local population.