Focus on environmental impacts during recovery: REA

KATHMANDU: A 13-member Rapid Environmental Assessment team, headed by former vice chairman of the National Planning Commission Shankar Sharma, has recommended that the government act in a manner to mitigate the environmental impacts and hazards during the post-earthquake recovery of the country.

“Environmental concern may be unavoidable but can be mitigated. Therefore, REA team has recommended the government to manage the quake-generated debris with particular care so that it does not pose risk to the environment and public health,” said Sharma at a press meet organised at the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment today.

He informed that the Kathmandu Valley alone had 3.9 million metric tonnes of debris generated in the aftermath of the April 25 earthquake. “A huge portion of debris left by the quakes in the Valley is not recyclable while around 80 per cent of debris has already been recycled in the rural areas for reconstruction works, given the mud-stone and wooden houses,” he said.

“It is not an easy task to manage the debris of concrete structures in the Valley while mitigating its impacts on environment and public health. The government should duly take this issue into consideration during the recovery and reconstruction phase.”

The debris basically constitutes bricks, stones, concrete blocks, tile, steel bars, Corrugated Galvanised Iron (CGI) sheets, wooden joist, beams, doors and window frames, steel pipes and tanks, UPVC pipes and tanks, electrical wires and cables, furniture and fixtures, cement concrete, dust, clay, plant remains, broken glasses, and chemical pastes among others.

There may also be hazardous wastes such as gas cylinders, building material containing asbestos, hazardous pesticides, acids, batteries, and chemicals from industries in the disaster stricken areas which would require specific treatment and attention.

“Dust flying off the debris

is injurious to health and its impact on the environment should be mitigated,” Sharma said.

The Rapid Environmental Assessment team formed by the MoSTE comprises geologists, forest and biodiversity experts and social inclusion, watershed, irrigation, resettlement, environmental as well as wildlife experts from various national and international non-government agencies.

The specific objective of Rapid Environmental Assessment is to identify, map and prioritise environmental impacts and hazards as well as risks resulting from the quakes, and from subsequent recovery/reconstruction. It also works to assess institutional capacities at local as well as national level in order to mitigate environmental risks and manage environmental recovery.

The team has also suggested the government not to destroy the existing forests, national parks or protected areas ‘in the name of recovery plan’ along with addressing the problems of geohazards, landslides, unstable slopes and hydrological shift in the quake-affected districts.