Although several weeks have passed since the Asian tsunami devastated coastal communities in 12 countries around the Indian Ocean, we are still struggling to comprehend the magnitude of the human losses.
Now, as attention turns to reconstruction, the focus has changed to look at the underlying issues and plan for sustainable redevelopment.
28 December last year, UNEP created the Asian Tsunami Disaster Task Force to assess the tsunami’s impact on the environment. Working closely with UN colleagues, international organisations and counterpart national authorities, UNEP teams have been able to provide policy and technical advice to address pressing environmental needs, such as cleaning up waste to prevent further degradation of ground water supplies, and have helped to guide the overall environmental recovery process.
This work has resulted in the report “After the Tsunami – Rapid Environmental Assessment”. The assessment gives evidence of environmental concerns that require serious attention and immediate action and summarises the interim findings from ongoing environmental assessments in Indonesia, the Maldives, the Seychelles, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Yemen, which are the countries that specifically requested cooperation and assistance from UNEP.
· Healthy coastal ecosystems protected people and property
· Water and soil have been contaminated
· Hazardous debris threatens public health and safety
· Environmental infrastructure, buildings and industrial sites were damaged
· Health and environment are intrinsically linked
· People’s livelihoods were heavily impacted
· Wildlife avoided harm
· Excessive demands have been placed on environmental capacity
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