The Nepal Environment and Humanitarian Action (EHA) country-level study is one in a series of studies undertaken by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) / UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Joint Environment Unit (JEU) in 2015 that assesses the extent to which environmental concerns have been mainstreamed in humanitarian action. In July 2015, OCHA and UNEP undertook a ten day mission to Nepal to better understand environmental mainstreaming in a rapid onset emergency and provide guidance and advice to humanitarian actors on how to improve mainstreaming efforts.
The study indicates that while there is generally a high level of awareness of the need to support environmental mainstreaming, much more can be done to integrate environment into preparedness actions in high risk countries.
The mission managed to meet with a significant range of actors contributing to the response and participate in two field missions to IDP camps, relocation sites, and affected urban and rural areas near Kathmandu. There is a significant amount of good work taking place on EHA, however, given the scope and scale of the disaster and the short duration of the mission there was insufficient time to capture it all.
Five key factors to strengthen environmental mainstreaming in rapid onset emergencies were identified based on the Nepal study:
- Environment in preparedness: Include environmental considerations in all facets of preparedness for response, not overlooking areas that can contribute to minimising impact and, make positive contributions to livelihoods and natural resources in future response (e.g. debris waste management guidelines agreed and in place, GIS data on natural resources and protected areas accessible, Rapid Environmental Assessment (REA) tool template agreed amongst appropriate actors, local environment expertise identified).
- Integrate local environmental expertise: Engage local environmental expertise in humanitarian action. The participation of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Nepal in the Inter Cluster Coordination Group (ICC) in late June was referred to by a number of partners as the first significant step to put environment on the response agenda. In follow-up, members of the Nepal Hariyo Ban Program supported the development and introduction of environmental tip sheets for WASH, Shelter, Food and Education clusters which were highlighted as an asset and key reference for humanitarian partners.
- Improve application of environmental assessment tools: In Nepal there was an attempt to integrate the Rapid Environmental Assessment (REA) process and findings into the humanitarian response. However, more consistent and earlier application of the REA process in future emergencies is key to laying the foundation for an environmentally informed response. The sequence of environment related assessments that are likely following a new or escalating emergency should be more widely recognized (Flash Environmental Assessment Tool (FEAT) -> REA -> Environmental Needs Assessment (ENA)/ Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA)). In principle the REA should be considered a standard tool for use in humanitarian response operations. In a larger emergency where a set of assessment tools are likely to be applied, early and strategic agreement amongst key stakeholders should be reached to ensure: harmonization of environmental assessment efforts; strong linkages to humanitarian response and early recovery process; and adequate technical and financial resources are made available.
- Integrate energy sector into humanitarian response architecture: The importance of bringing the energy sector response into the national and international humanitarian architecture was highlighted in Nepal, where distribution of several thousand institutional and household solar energy units could have been better linked to cluster response priorities (eg. Health and Education clusters). In addition, the long-term renewable energy goals of Nepal and the significant reconstruction required after the earthquake warrants development of an energy strategy to improve access to household fuel and lighting using appropriate technologies and renewable energy in the humanitarian response.
- Further enhance environmental interoperability of surge mechanisms: A significant number of rapid response mechanisms were triggered in the aftermath of the quake (including UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) teams, Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination (UN-CMCoord) expertise, and Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) teams). These mechanisms facilitate or directly provide support capacity which could be utilised to augment and strengthen the environmental response. A successful example is UNDAC teams’ increased application of the Flash Environmental Assessment Tool (FEAT) during response since the tool was integrated into the UNDAC induction course curriculum in 2013. However, deployed military assets and USAR teams have not been similarly tapped into. These networks may have additional capacity to complement environmental response efforts and partnerships with these and other response networks should be strengthened.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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