|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)|
The RESCUE programme is an integrated environmental intervention, including stove dissemination, household afforestation, green-belt afforestation, and awareness building and training. The programme started after the emergency or influx phase had ended. It addressed deforestation problems in and around the Somali camps of Hagadera, Dagahaley, and Ifo. The local population in these areas is only about 5,000 to 10,000, or about one local per every ten refugees. Four main problems faced by the displaced were identified as: (i) the displaced peoples had to travel increasing distances for firewood; (ii) as wood became scarce, greenwood was increasingly cut; (iii) sexual violence against women in search of fuelwood became prevalent; (iv) resource related conflicts with the local population erupted.
The main lessons learned from the project were:
· taking a developmental approach in emergencies, and making an appraisal of needs in this light is critical;
· equal treatment needs to be given to camp and local populations;
· the sustainability of afforestation efforts will remain limited as long as the ownership question is not resolved;
· the impact of introducing fabrication of simple technology fuel efficient stoves will remain limited as long as training in the making of these stoves is limited. Introducing simple technology does not mean that simple training is sufficient;
· much fuel is consumed by small scale businesses, but these are rarely considered in fuel saving initiatives.
General recommendations included (i) displaced and local populations consider the environment as a resource base. When planning environmental interventions, we need to focus on the livelihood environment; (ii) the factors that determine the livelihood environment, intervene prior to the issues of household energy consumption and deforestation. The livelihood environment is determined largely by settlement strategies and the activities that seek to tackle environmental health questions; (iii) the return situation has to be part of the planning of all activities from the beginning.
Specific recommendations as related to the emergency phase were as follows: (i) shelter costs wood. This needs to be included in planning relief interventions, through the provision of alternative building materials, warm blankets, etc.; (ii) certain foods require more fuel for preparation than others. In addition to providing fuel cost-efficient foods in relief, milling facilities should be included as a relief item; (iii) mass training in energy saving methods should be implemented early in the emergency phase; (iv) wood cutting areas should be decentralised, then fuel efficient stoves should be provided.
Case studies from Rwanda, Tanzania and Zaire were presented. The ecosystems in Rwanda and Tanzania have been affected and modified by human activities over centuries. Ecosystems accustomed to intense human activity (such as in the Rwandan and Tanzanian setting) appear to react better to the consequences of population/livestock concentrations, than ecosystems that have been less affected by human activity (e.g. Zaire). The carrying and recovery capacities of various ecosystems is also affected by the duration of population/livestock concentrations. Recovery of affected ecosystems in general, however, will depend on the intactness of humus and the presence of seeds and seedlings in the ground once the period of stress is over.
Intervening factors which determine the carrying and recovery capacity of an affected ecosystem include the fragility of the ecosystem; local topography; local availability of energy sources; availability of pastures; climatic conditions (heavy rainfall that may wash away topsoil); energy needs of refugees; number and type of livestock; number of refugees; length of stay; and rapidity in which an environmental operation is started.
The aim of an environmental operation initiated following population displacements, therefore, should be to safeguard the physical and socio-economic environment, and focus on the local community to ensure long term sustainability.
The main recommendations that can be drawn from the case-studies include:
· where humanitarian crises can be expected, maps indicating areas with fragile ecosystems should be prepared;
· environmental considerations should be included in the very beginning of a crises. It is recommendable to include an environmental expert in the initial assessment team;
· the local population should be involved in planning the use of land from the very beginning. Efforts should be made to ask people how they want to use the land.
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.
Perceptions of the term «environment» differ from one society to another. For the vast majority of Africans, particularly the very poor, it is a question of survival. In fact it is a development tool. Environment should be viewed as consisting of three dimensions: the ecological/biological; the socio-cultural; and, the socio-economic. All the problems, issues and challenges of environment and development can be assigned to these dimensions.
One of the major problems of environment and development which is also a most glaring indication of environmental and developmental failure in our time is the refugee malaise in Africa. To be a refugee is to experience a particularly degrading form of poverty. A refugee typically lacks economic resources, has been deprived of national identity, and his very right to exist is called into question. There are far more internal refugees than cross-border (external) refugees in Africa. Unfortunately excessive attention has been focused on cross-border refugees at the expense of internal refugees. The issue of the impact of internal refugees on the environment has not received the attention it deserves. Neither has that of large concentrations of cross-border refugees upon rural resources. Yet people forced to move find themselves in complex and intricate environmental linkages that are increasingly threatening to squeeze them out of existence. Perhaps no people in Africa illustrate this better than the Rwandese.
Several factors are responsible for the generation of the environmental refugee malaise in Africa. These include historical and socio-political factors; huge capital-intensive development projects; disasters such as war, drought, famine and earthquakes; desertification; floods; establishment of reserves and national parks; ill-advised economic policies and despotic regimes.
New perceptions, thinking and policies that are people-centred, anticipatory and problem-oriented, and that reflect historical and socio-political realities in Africa are required urgently. The alternative is escalating environmental and developmental crises despite huge inflows of resources to redress them.
In this paper, we examine the environmental refugee malaise in Africa with specific reference to the Rwandese debacle and its impact on the environment. Problems, issues and challenges are identified including ecological stress and political conflicts, and some suggestions for action are given. We conclude that the people of Africa themselves be empowered to deal with the refugee problem with backup assistance from the humanitarian community as a first step towards preventing refugee impacts on the environment.
As refugee flows and other forms of forced migration take place with unprecedented magnitude and speed, displaced people utilise the meagre resources available in their resettlement zones, and this frequently creates tensions between newcomers and local populations. This presentation aims at examining environmental and political problems related to the displacement of peoples with special emphasis on Bangladesh and Sudan.
The first aim was to examine environmental impact of sudden massive refugee influxes and long-term residency of displaced populations in receiving areas. Secondly the presentation discussed the political implications of refugee flows. Finally, the cases of Bangladesh and Sudan are examined to see whether the interrelations of population displacement, environmental change, and political insecurity specified in the first two theoretical sections are supported by real-world observation.
The concluding section suggested how affected States, international community, and relief agencies can minimise refugee-related environmental and political disruptions, particularly by coping well with emergency relief phase. There are three prerequisite for a timely, effective, and yet sustainable response to a refugee crisis cited were preparatory planning, immediate relief, and sustainable relief. These three phases should not be considered in isolation but within an integrated system.