American Samoa + 20 more

Managing disaster waste to strengthen country resiliency

17 November 2021, Apia – As Pacific countries prepare to enter the cyclone season, participants of the 3rd Clean Pacific Roundtable, Deep Dive side event on Disaster Waste Management, were encouraged to recognise the importance of including disaster waste management into National Disaster Management Offices (NDMOs) operations and how it can contribute towards disaster risk reduction.

The interactive Deep Dive Session emphasised the complexities associated with modern disaster waste streams, highlighting issues and challenges faced by Pacific islands in addressing disaster waste and stressed out the importance of a holistic approach to managing disaster waste to build the Pacific’s resilience.

Discussions and presentations during the session focused on the vulnerability of the Pacific Region to increasing natural disasters and the impact of natural disasters, especially of cyclones on local communities, informed participants on the goal of the FRDP and re-introduce the Regional Disaster Waste Management Guideline.

Participants of the session learnt that disaster waste historically was dominated by fallen trees and damaged traditional houses, made from tree stems and woven leaves, which did not pose many risks to people and the surrounding environment as it was mostly organic matter that degraded naturally.

However, as economic development progressed in the Pacific, combined with the increasing population, and changing lifestyles, the nature of wastes generated after disasters became more complex and costly to manage.

In the Pacific, the intensity and frequency of natural disasters such as tropical cyclones are evidently increasing and when these natural disasters occur large amounts of waste are generated from damage to both the natural and man-made environment.

Latest data from the World Risk report 2021 reveals that within the top 10 at risk countries in the world to disasters, three countries are from the Pacific, namely, Vanuatu ranked as number one, followed by Solomon Islands ranked at the second at most risk and Tonga rated as the third most at risk country. A total of six Pacific islands are also in the top 20 most at-risk countries from natural disasters.

Presenters and participants commended the collaboration by NDMO and Ministry of Environment in Tonga, Samoa, Vanuatu, and Federated States of Micronesia in changing the Status quo for National Disaster Management Framework to not only focus on health and infrastructure rebuilding but also include Disaster Waste Management.

Presenters noted some of the challenges of managing disaster waste included National waste facilities and infrastructure were usually under pressure from the large volume of bulky wastes generated following a disaster. In addition to this, waste infrastructure had to deal with expired relief packages.

Participants were told that the establishment of new cluster within the NDMO framework to deal with Disaster waste can often be a challenge. However, there is an opportunity for disaster waste management to be included in existing sectoral Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) such as Infrastructure.

With limited capacity, lack of adequate funding and waste facilities in many Pacific Island countries and territories, there is a high likelihood of greater environmental and potential health impacts on communities, ecosystems and sustainable economic development following natural disasters.

To address this, SPREP is mobilising resources from several donor-funded projects and partners to support members and facilitate the inclusion of waste management issues into national disaster management systems. The implementation and operation of disaster waste management within NDMO structures would enable countries to seek assistance from FRDP Pacific Resilience Partnership.

The FRDP, in addition to providing highly technical guidance, is designed to enhance resilience to climate change and disasters in ways that contribute to and are embedded in sustainable development elements.

Participants were informed that while past efforts have been considerably focused on predicting and building resilience to climate related disaster index in the Pacific, the national management of debris and waste after a disaster is still undertaken in an ad hoc and uncoordinated manner.

Disaster waste management issues are not typically included in operational plans of NDMOs, despite waste management often being an immediate issue requiring response directly following a disaster, for example, roads blocked by debris, power lines down, asbestos in buildings posing a significant health risk to the public and response workers.

Presenters and participants commended the collaboration by NDMO and Ministry of Environment in Tonga, Samoa, Vanuatu, and Federated States of Micronesia in changing the Status quo for National Disaster Management Framework to not only focus on health and infrastructure rebuilding but also include Disaster Waste Management.

Some of the challenges raised by countries during the side event in terms of managing disaster waste included National waste facilities and infrastructures were usually under pressure from the large volume of bulky wastes generated following a disaster. In addition to this, waste infrastructures had to deal with expired relief packages.

Participants were told that the establishment of new cluster within the NDMO framework to deal with Disaster waste could potentially be a challenge and to explore the possibility for disaster waste management to be included in existing sectoral Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) such as Infrastructure.

SPREP and JICA, through their Waste Management and Pollution Control programme, is implementing projects to support members such as the J-PRISM II programme, which is working on the development of capacity of disaster waste (DW) management in the Pacific to reduce damages to infrastructure and promote ‘Build Back Better’ after disasters with the development of a Regional Disaster Waste Management Guidelines (DWM).

The Disaster Waste Regional Project by the European Union-funded PacWastePlus programme is designed to guide participating countries to establish structured disaster waste planning and management activities to reduce vulnerability and contribute towards protecting communities’ livelihoods, health, cultural heritage, socioeconomic assets, and ecosystems, thus strengthening disaster resilience.

This project is aligned to and supports the JPRISM II Regional Disaster Waste Management Guideline and is also directly linked to the Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific (FRDP) and designed to improve the capacity of Pacific countries to be prepared for a disaster and respond effectively to disaster waste management.

SPREP has commenced the ‘Committing to Sustainable Waste Actions in the Pacific’ (SWAP) Project, funded by l’Agence Française de Developpement (AFD), which supports seven Pacific countries and territories in implementing various activities for cost-effective and sustainable waste management.

SWAP will support other projects by the development and delivery of a regional bi-lingual training programme and assisting countries to conduct scoping studies to identify disposal facilities that can practicably be rehabilitated and climate proofed

While some Pacific countries have established national disaster management frameworks including national disaster management plans and associated institutional arrangements, there was still limited recognition and priority given to disaster waste management. The implementation and operation of disaster waste management within NDMO structures would enable countries to seek assistance from FRDP Pacific Resilience Partnership.

For more information, please contact Ms. Sainimili Bulai at sainimilib@sprep.org and Mr. Sione Fulivai at sionef@sprep.org.

ABOUT THE 3rd CPRT

The Third Clean Pacific Roundtable is a partnership event supported by New Caledonia, Acotred Pacific, Agence Francaise de Development (AFD), Australian Aid (AUS Aid), European Union (EU), Fonds Pacifique, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), UN Environment Program, Province SUD and Province NORD.To register, click: https://www.cleanpacificroundtable.com/cprt3-history