UNEP played a central role in the response to cyclone Nargis, which struck Myanmar on 2 May 2008, most notable in mainstreaming environmental concerns into the recovery phase. The category 3 cyclone made landfall in the Irrawaddy delta region, approximately 250 km southwest of the capital Yangon. Major damage was reported in the affected areas, particularly in the low-lying delta region, where the cyclone’s impact was compounded by a storm surge.
In the first instance, UNEP established an “environmental help desk” in Yangon to support the UN Country Team (UNCT), government and other stakeholders to integrate environmental considerations into the UN disaster recovery programme. A UNEP environmental expert was deployed to undertake a comprehensive overview of national recovery plans, provide advice for further mainstreaming of environmental considerations into recovery planning, and review recovery plans for all UN agencies and national and international NGOs. The expert also acted as the focal point for coordination of environmental and natural resource-related recovery programmes.
As part of its capacity-building efforts, UNEP delivered a series of water safety training modules in the township of Bogale from 27-29 January 2009 to provide technical support and training to the national government to help meet the challenge of clean and safe water supplies to the cyclone-affected area. The training was attended by participants from the Ministry of Health and NGOs based in the country. Based on the success of the workshop, UNEP received further requests for capacity-building assistance, which culminated in the delivery of Geographic Information System (GIS) training in April 2009.
A workshop was also held on the policy implications of environment, livelihoods, and Disaster Risk Reduction in the context of the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis in late 2009. Finally, a study on lessons learned from the Nargis disaster was completed and presented by UNEP at the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in Geneva, Switzerland in June 2009.
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