Rapid Environmental Assessment: Cyclones and flooding in Madagascar

Originally published


Table of Contents

Executive summary

1. Introduction


The Madagascar cyclone season 2006-2007

This report

2. Assessment methodology

3. Assessment results

a. Potential environmental emergencies

b. Environmental concerns for the recovery phase

4. Recommendations

Annex: Profile of Potential Environmental Risks

Executive summary

Madagascar experienced an exceptional number of cyclones and tropical storms during the 2006-2007 cyclone season. Seven tropical cyclones either made a direct landfall and/or influenced precipitation levels and patterns on the island. The last two cyclones alone affected an estimated 190,000 people and killed 150. In response to a request of the Malagasy Government, an United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team was deployed to the country from 9-23 April 2007.

Because of concerns about the environmental impact of the cyclones and associated floods, the Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit, in close collaboration with OCHA's Field Coordination Support Section (FCSS), provided an environmental expert as an associate member to the UNDAC team. This expert, from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), was tasked to undertake a Rapid Environmental Assessment (REA) to identify any urgent and life threatening secondary environmental impacts and risks. The major conclusion of the Rapid Environmental Assessment is that no immediate environmental impacts on and risks to human health were identified.

The series of cyclones/tropical storms experienced during this cyclone season, however, have had a substantial cumulative impact on the environment and community livelihoods in the areas affected. In the medium-term, this is likely to result in increased environmental degradation, particularly in the form of soil erosion. In addition, the high winds and storm surges associated with the cyclones have adversely affected fragile ecosystems, such as coastal forests, mangroves and coral reefs that are particularly vulnerable to cyclone damage.

A chronic problem that was aggravated by the flooding concerns the levels of biological (mainly faecal) contamination of wells for drinking water. Poor hygienic conditions and limited resources for water and sanitation underlie this situation. The most significant environmental impact of this year's cyclone season, however, will be the crop losses during the current agricultural season, which will have consequences for human welfare and livelihoods. In the medium-term (6-12 months), an increase in human pressures on natural resources is likely, particularly on forests and coral reefs, including those in protected areas. Degradation processes will probably accelerate, especially those associated with land degradation and soil erosion.

This report recommends that urgent attention be paid to the issue of polluted drinking water wells that has been aggravated by the disaster. In conclusion, the report makes a number of recommendations for consideration and inclusion in the recovery phase.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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