Technical expertise of the environment development agency UNEP, plus the humanitarian side of OCHA, enables a humanitarian response targeted to environmental emergencies. Note that we are well placed to discuss issues related to the interface between environment and disasters, as the Joint Unit has a foot in each domain. Definition of environmental emergency: “An environmental emergency is defined as a sudden onset disaster or accident resulting from natural, technological or human-induced factors, or a combination of these, that cause or threaten to cause severe environmental damage as well as harm to human health and/or livelihoods.” UNEP Strategic Framework on Emergency Prevention, Preparedness, Assessment, Mitigation, and Response UNEP/ GC.22/INF/5: 2001
The disaster risk reduction community increasingly understands the role of environment in reducing disaster risk. Issues like ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation are making their way into global frameworks (including the post-2015 framework on DRR). We should, however, accept that while we can reduce disaster risk, disasters will still happen – and there will be continual need for disaster response and humanitarian assistance. Environmental challenges like environmental degradation, climate change, population growth, food- and energy-price volatility, water scarcity and urbanization will affect the future landscape of humanitarian action. Together these are increasing risks for vulnerable people. They are eroding people’s ability to cope with shocks, making crises more protracted and recurrent, and undermining sustainable development. These trends have become as likely to cause and exacerbate humanitarian crises as disasters and conflicts. The humanitarian community should also acknowledge the role of environment both as an underlying vulnerability (resource scarcity, land erosion) and as a potential hazard (environmental degradation, urban landscapes, industrialization). Share some examples of environmental emergencies in an urban landscape – next two slides.
On 12 September 2011, international media sources reported a major fuel pipeline explosion and fire in the Mukuru-Sinai slum of Nairobi, Kenya. Over 100 people were burnt to death, while an equal amount of people were hospitalized with serious burn wounds. On 23 September 2011, an official request for environmental emergency response services was made by the Kenyan Ministry of Environment and Mineral Resources (MEMR) through the UNRC. The JEU subsequently compiled an expert team to undertake a rapid environmental emergency assessment. The scope of the mission was to provide scientific information on the extent and nature of pollution and to assist the decision-making and priority-setting by the authorities and other actors for follow-up activities on the affected site. The mission took place from 9 to 16 October 2011.
The main conclusion of the mission was that the fire was not caused by a pipeline explosion as reported initially in (international) media, but by an industrial accident that caused a large amount of unleaded petrol to enter a storm water drainage system. A further conclusion was that a repetition of a similar type of accident is considered as highly likely.
The area where the accident took place is affected by pre-existing, chronic pollution and therefore no immediate clean-up action is needed for the remaining residues of the accident. There is no immediate threat to the drinking water supply as a result of the accident.
The mission established that there is a clear indication of other uncontrolled industrial effluents being released into the storm water drainage system and the Ngong River.
In the aftermath of the devastating explosions at an ammunition storage site in Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo in March 2012, which reportedly killed more than 200 and injured 1,500 people, an UNDAC team with United Nations Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS) and a Swiss expert – was deployed in response to a request by the UN RC and in coordination with the OCHA Regional Office for West & Central Africa. The UNDAC mission team undertook a rapid environmental assessment of industrial sites located within 500 meters of the exploded ammunition storage to determine if any installations had been damaged to an extent that would pose additional secondary risks to the population and the environment. This rapid environmental assessment did not point to any significant additional hazards. Sampling results received from the Swiss national Laboratory indicated that traces of lead, copper and mercury were detectable in soil samples from the impact zone. No significantly elevated amounts of heavy metals were measured in other samples. No immediate follow up was needed, and a more detailed assessment will be undertaken once the Unexploded Ordnance (UXOs) has been cleared.
In an effort to take these environmental factors into account in humanitarian action, the Joint Unit developed the Environmental Emergency Risk Index. The EERI builds upon existing humanitarian, development and environmental performance indices, primarily the InfoRM. InfoRM is a way to measure the risk of humanitarian crises that identifies where crises requiring international assistance may occur and analyses that risk so it can be better managed by everyone. The EERI looks at the InfoRM risk elements of hazards, vulnerabilities and capacities – adding key environmental emergency elements in order to get an understanding of those countries most at risk of environmental emergencies. The EERI captures two elements more that any other known index in the humanitarian sector: technological hazards and environmental vulnerability. Like the InfoRM, the EERI Permits objective classification by country. Is proactive: better than “responding ad hoc to requests from countries or donors”. Allows prioritization of support efforts on the basis of a systematic compilation of data. The EERI is not: Perfect will never be, but will improve as datasets are reinforced. Absolute index is merely relative, comparing countries. Static needs to be periodically updated and regularly improved with better data, understanding and techniques.
Note that the full report on the EERI methodology and indicators is available through the Joint Unit. Invite participants to discuss and improve the index. www.unocha.org/unep Email: email@example.com
Share the EERI results. Point out that the EERI is a work in progress. Mention that we have piloted EERI application in Caucasus and Central Asia. http://www.eecentre.org/
Invite the audience and GRF participants to collaborate on the EERI. Partnering with us on the EERI could mean many things; working to improve global datasets, engaging in a peer review of the index, adding additional datasets and/or using the index to advocate for the importance of including technological hazards and environmental vulnerabilities into disaster and humanitarian risk management. Further review, development and use of the index will be necessary in order to strengthen and improve it. Depending on partners’ interest and resources available, the JEU will lead work to further develop the EERI - with the objective to launch the tool at the Environmental Emergencies Forum in June 2015.
How to manage
environmental emergency risk?
Environmental Emergency Risk Index:
Need to integrate environment in
risk models and to prioritize efforts
Captures two new elements:
Builds on what is already
available, is proactive and forms
part of a set of criteria on which
countries and initiatives to engage
Environmental Emergency Risk
Addressing the various elements of
environmental emergency risk
• Country-dedicated work on
specific hazard and vulnerability
• Advocacy – use of EERI
Further exploring the links between
humanitarian, climate change and
environmental emergency risk?