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Immediately following the 2004 tsunami, UNEP worked with environmental authorities in Indonesia, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Seychelles, Yemen and Somalia to conduct an environmental assessment of tsunami impacts and provide recommendations for reconstruction. Some of the key findings of the assessment, which were recorded in After the Tsunami: UNEP's Rapid Environmental Assessment Report, related to:

  • The need to rehabilitate coastal ecosystems, which provide a first line of defence against natural hazards;
  • Saltwater and wastewater contamination of soil and groundwater wells;
  • The threat of hazardous debris to public health;
  • The environmental consequences of damage to infrastructure, including industrial sites;
  • The impact of the tsunami on the populations' livelihoods; and
  • The over-stretching of environmental management capacities in the aftermath of the tsunami.

UNEP conducted a follow-up assessment of environmental impacts two years after the tsunami.

UNEP's work in Indonesia comprised the following activities:

Integrating environmental concerns in reconstruction

UNEP, through the UN country team in Indonesia, provided technical assistance to and worked closely with the Ministry of Environment and Indonesia's agency for reconstruction in Aceh and Nias (BRR) in all its assessment activities. Officials were trained in environmental assessment methods, spatial planning and waste management issues.

To ensure that post-tsunami reconstruction efforts have a minimal negative environmental impact, UNEP developed technical guidance for re-vegetation projects and environmentally appropriate building techniques.

UNEP also assisted BRR in developing a Strategic Environment Framework (SEF), which is the basis for its integration of environmental concerns in the reconstruction process.

At the local level, UNEP assisted communities to rebuild by supporting mangrove re-vegetation projects, education and awareness projects and by promoting the sharing of technology and best practice between villages, in cooperation with Wetlands International.

Mitigating environmental risk

In response to a number of natural disasters, including the Yogjakarta earthquake and Mt Merapi volcanic eruption, UNEP assisted the Indonesian Ministry of Environment in conducting an environmental risk assessment. The government has now adopted a disaster reduction policy framework.

Following hot mud flows near Sudoarjo, Java, UNEP assisted the Ministry of Environment and the Siduarjo Mudflow Mitigation Agency with the establishment of engineered wetlands and environmentally sound management of the mud.

Disaster Risk Reduction

Recognizing that Indonesia is a country prone to natural hazards, UNEP assisted the Ministry of Environment to develop a framework for disaster risk reduction. Training was provided to Ministry staff on spatial planning and mangrove rehabilitation projects are contributing to minimizing the impacts of natural hazards.

UNEP finalized work under its post-tsunami reconstruction programme at the end of 2007.