Environmental assessment and disaster events

Lead Research Organisation: University of Liverpool
Department Name: Geography and Planning


Environmental degradation often has a part to play in the occurrence and severity of damaging or disaster events. For instance, deforestation can increase the risk of flash flooding or landslides and wetland depletion can increase the risk posed by storm surges and tsunamis to coastal communities. The recognition of the relationship between environmental degradation and disaster events has meant that environmental management is now seen as a key means of reducing disaster risk.

As a result, one instrument that has gained much attention in this context has been environmental assessment (EA). EA is an environmental management tool that acts to promote the consideration of environmental issues in human development actions. It is often divided into EA of projects, generally referred to as environmental impact assessment (EIA), and EA of programmes, plans and policies, frequently termed strategic environmental assessment (SEA). EA can help reduce the negative impacts of development action on the environment and in doing so can help prevent the underlying causes of disaster risk. However, it is recognised that the role of EA in this regard can be potentially further strengthened. In this context, two main points have been made:

1. EA has the potential to be a means through which disaster risk considerations can be embedded into development activity by expanding the tool methodologically to incorporate explicit disaster risk considerations. For instance, expanding the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process to explicitly consider how deforestation associated with a proposed development project could reconfigure the landslide or flood risk in a locality.

2. EAs should be fully integrated into activities in the post-disaster period in order to help prevent disaster recurrence and promote sustainability. This is often a time when EA considerations are sidelined officially or unofficially in order to hasten disaster response or recovery interventions.

However to date, the concept of using EA to reduce disaster risk is not something that has been widely researched, or indeed, been widely implemented in practice, despite its potential as a cost-effective means of reducing disaster risk. Accordingly, the proposed seminar aims to bring together UK and Japan based researchers and practitioners in the environmental assessment and disaster management fields to explore the potential role that environmental assessment can play in disaster risk reduction, promote dialogue, and, drawing on the diverse experiences of the UK and Japan based participants, develop new insights that can help advance the agenda in research and in practice in the UK, Japan and potentially further afield.

Planned Impact

The proposed event intends to increase awareness of the potential role that environmental assessment can play in reducing the risk of disasters to a range of individuals from research and practice in the environment and disaster fields in the UK, Japan and potentially further afield. The seminar is designed to promote dialogue between these groups and function as a forum in which all participants can benefit from the experiences of individuals operating in other fields and in different national contexts.

Drawing on the experiences of the participants, one of the key aspirations of the seminar is to produce new insights into the subject and highlight ways to progress the agenda. It is envisaged that these outputs will be of benefit to the academic community, highlighting new avenues for research, and will also be of interest to the wider policy-maker community, not just in the two stakeholder countries but internationally. For instance, reducing underlying disaster risk factors, an area where work in this area could contribute, is now a global priority under the Hyogo Framework for Action, the decade long global framework for disaster risk reduction coming out of the 2005 World Conference on Disaster Reduction. This framework has been adopted by 168 governments. The outcomes and insights coming out of these sessions will similarly be of relevance to the work of development banks and aid agencies, many of these have internal EA procedures and frequently engage in EA capacity building programmes in disaster prone or impacted developing countries.


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Fischer T (2014) EDITORIAL - DISASTER AND RISK MANAGEMENT: THE ROLE OF ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT in Journal of Environmental Assessment Policy and Management

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Thomas Fischer (Author) (2013) Policy Integration between EA and Disaster Management in International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA)

Description environmental assessment is useful in pre as well as post disaster situations, reducing risks and enhancing resilience
Exploitation Route People have questioned effectiveness of EA instruments. Our findings show that effectiveness can be achieved, providing for some empirical evidence.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Construction,Education,Energy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice,Security and Diplomacy

Description A key figure from the final report on how EA can be effective has appeared in guidelines of the International Atomic Energy Agency on strategic environmental assessment of nuclear power programmes.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Energy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice,Security and Diplomacy
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services