Lack of environmental planning creates problems during and after disaster response

A report from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies assessing the environmental aspects of the disaster response to the Haiti Earthquake in 2010 and Tropical Depression TD12-E in El Salvador in 2011 has found that failure to plan for the environmental aspects of the response activities actually added to the lingering effects of the disasters. For example:

  • vehicle emissions were very high, especially from trucks hauling water. Emissions could have been greatly reduced if water had been transported by pipeline using pumps.
  • renewable technologies (solar, wind) for electricity would have had a much lower environmental impact than diesel generators.
  • packaging of relief supplies should be planned to minimize waste and packaging materials should be reusable for local purposes or locally recyclable wherever possible.
  • the environmental impact of such relief items as tarpaulins, tents, blankets and jerry cans should be evaluated and steps taken to minimize the impacts during all phases of the product lifecycle, especially including adequate end of life management.
  • discarded plastic wrap can create serious environmental problems, including the blockages of rivers and streams which add to flooding. Again recovery and recycling of materials is should be planned into distribution programs.
  • local procurement is preferable to flying in relief supplies.

This well written report should provide everyone involved in production and distribution of relief supplies with much to think about and do.

The 56 page report is available at http://adore.ifrc.org/Download.aspx?FileId=50829&.pdf

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