Immediately following the 2004 tsunami, UNEP worked with environmental authorities in the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Thailand, Seychelles, Yemen and Somalia to conduct an environmental assessment of tsunami impacts and provide recommendations for recon-struction. 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 defense 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.
In the case of the Maldives, the assessment found that approximately 290,000 cubic meters of tsunami waste were generated on the country's 69 inhabited islands. In addition, coastal zones were eroded and vegetation, including food crops, destroyed. UNEP followed its assessment work with rehabilitation projects of coastal ecosystems.
At the request of the government, UNEP also led a detailed environmental assessment of the impacts of the unusually powerful sea swell that struck the Maldives between 15 and 18 May 2007. This involved:
- Detailed field-based assessment of the environmental impacts of the swell;
- Developing proposals for priority response activities aimed at remediation of environmental impacts, improving environmental sustainability and reducing communities' vulnerabilities to disaster risks; and
- Developing long-term environment and disaster risk management capacities, policies, assessments and plans.
Integrating environmental considerations in reconstruction
To address the impacts of the 2004 tsunami, UNEP undertook rehabilitation of mangroves and other coastal ecosystems on Huraa Island in conjunction with IUCN and Wetlands International. The work directly supported the Conservation Management Plan of the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Water.
UNEP finalized work under its post-tsunami reconstruction programme at the end of 2007.