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Reducing Risk through Environment in Recovery Operations

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J. Stephens
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Increasing attention is being paid to the importance attached to environmental issues in recovery operations and the new challenges climate change will pose to communities already vulnerable to natural hazards. The purpose of this paper is to provide an introductory review of the current status of recovery operations in terms of integrating environment and long-term disaster risk reduction (DRR). The publication endeavors to assist decision makers by highlighting the following elements which are vital to good practices:

effective assessment of post-disaster environmental impacts
the constitution of environmentally sound relief and recovery operations
engagement of environmental actors early in disaster recovery
availability of environment related support and guidance in disaster contexts.

The paper argues that response and recovery efforts can either increase or decrease the risk of future disaster events, depending on how they are managed. The following are considered relevant components on how to take advantage of the opportunities arising from crises for promoting sound environmental and natural resource management to reduce future risk:

what are the barriers to integrated recovery operations that build on existing development priorities and reduce future disaster risk?
what are the existing natural hazards, climate change induced trends in hazards, and the implications for recovery operations?
what opportunities are there in post-disaster situations to promote DRR and climate change adaptation that include sound environmental practices?
how should environmental services in recovery be costed?

The publication uses case studies Myanmar and Bangladesh which were recently devastated by the impacts of Cyclones Nargis and Sidr respectively. In Myanmar:

significant progress has been made in the recognition of the contribution of environment to recovery and DRR
communicating environmental issues to the appropriate actors and capacity building enhances the sustainability of future environmental management for reduced hazard risk
challenges still remain concerning cross-sectoral cooperation and territorial ownership of environmental issues and the need to foster further governmental support for environmental issues.

In Bangladesh:

many improvements have occurred in the nation’s risk management and DRR strategies
there has been inclusion of environmental considerations, environmental projects protecting riverbanks and coastal areas with local participation, and the recognition that disasters and recovery will be part of the development continuum
funding priorities across all sectors should recognise environment issues to a greater degree.