An Environment Sector to strengthen NDMO’s assessment and management of disaster waste and impacts of disasters

Member countries participating in the 30th SPREP Meeting of Officials, with the theme of “Accelerating actions for a resilient Blue Pacific”, were informed that the inclusion of an Environment Sector, in the mainstream national emergency management coordinating structure within the National Disaster Management Offices (NDMOs) would provide significant value to countries and increase country and community resilience to disasters. 

This sector Group would strengthen NDMO’s assessment and management of disaster waste and impacts of disasters, not limited to waste, on receival environments.

The Pacific is impacted by tropical cyclones annually affecting people and often have high socio-economic and environmental consequences. All disaster scenarios, including the current pandemic, have drastically increased volumes of waste generated. With a limited capacity and waste facilities in many Pacific island countries and territories, there is a high likelihood of greater environmental impacts on communities and ecosystems 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”, said Anthony Talouli, Acting. Director for SPREPs Waste Management and Pollution Control (WMPC) programme.

Members were informed that activities of the Sector could focus on building consideration for environmental impacts on biodiversity, oceans and land with disaster wastes into the preparedness, response, and recovery systems, enabling these issues to be addressed accordingly. 

The implementation and operation of an Environment Sector within NDMO structures would enable countries to seek assistance from the Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific (FRDP) Pacific Resilience Partnership. It would also provide an opportunity for the inclusion of disaster waste in FRDP regional approaches, and possibly the creation of a Regional Disaster Waste Management Taskforce to ensure appropriate preparedness, response and recovery activities adequately include and address appropriate, safe, and sustainable waste management. 

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. 

“Consultation with waste service providers throughout the region has noted that the largely ad-hoc arrangements in debris management have resulted in landfills being overloaded”, said Talouli.

He added that 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. 

SPREP through their WMPC programme is implementing several projects to support members such as the J-PRISM II programme, which is working on the development of the capacity of disaster waste (DW) management in the Pacific to reduce damages to infrastructure and promote ‘Build Back Better’ after the disasters with the development of a Regional Disaster Waste Management Guidelines (DWM). It provides technical guidance to Pacific islands on the management of disaster waste, based on the UNEP (2011) and Asia-Pacific (2018) DWM, lessons learnt from Pacific islands past disasters and consultations with SPREP Member countries.

The Disaster Waste Regional Project by the European Union funded PacWastePlus programme is being 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 is designed to improve the capacity of Pacific countries to be prepared for a disaster and respond effectively to disaster waste management”, stated Talouli.

Specific project activities will seek to assist countries to adopt a National Disaster Waste Management Guidelines, through the development of a template guideline on establishing an Environment Sector with Disaster Waste Management as a sub-cluster and development of a template guideline to assist countries in drafting a National Disaster Waste Management Framework.

The regional Disaster Waste Management project activities include the development and deployment of training resources focussing on waste management throughout each stage of the disaster management cycle and the development of addendums to the JPRISM II Regional Disaster Waste Management Guidelines. 

“For example, resources and training addressing issues such as the management of asbestos following a disaster, establishing agreements with stakeholders for disaster waste management services, management of hazardous wastes during disasters, and field guides on assessing, recording, and utilising waste data collected directly following a disaster to assist with response and recovery activities will be developed and implemented”, further explained Talouli.   

“SPREP has commenced the ‘Committing to Sustainable Waste Actions in the Pacific’ (SWAP) Project, funded by l’Agence Française de Developpement (AFD), which supports 7 Pacific countries and territories in implementing various activities for cost-effective and sustainable waste management”, added Talouli.   

This story was produced by Leanne, published at SPREP on 8 September 2021, reposted via PACNEWS.

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