Disaster recovery

The below table lists some of the potential environmental impacts from different types of disasters:

Type of disaster

Associated environmental impact

Cyclone/severe storm

Loss of vegetation cover and wildlife habitat

Short-term heavy rains and flooding inland

Mud slides and soil erosion

Saltwater intrusion to underground fresh water reservoirs

Soil contamination from saline water

Damage to offshore coral reefs and natural coastal defence mechanisms

Waste (some of which may be hazardous) and debris accumulation

Secondary impacts by temporarily displaced people

Impacts associated with reconstruction and repair to damaged infrastructure (e.g. deforestation, quarrying, waste pollution)


Ground water pollution through sewage overflow

Loss of crops, livestock and livelihood security

Excessive siltation (may affect certain fish stocks, dugongs and turtles)

River bank damage from erosion

Water and soil contamination fertilizers used

Secondary impacts by temporarily displaced people

Beneficial sedimentation in floodplains or close to river banks


Loss of surface vegetation

Loss of biodiversity

Forced human displacement

Loss of livestock and other productive systems


Loss of forest and wildlife habitat

Loss of biodiversity

Loss of ecosystem services

Loss of productive crops

Soil erosion

Secondary encroachment for settlement or agriculture

Sourced from UNEP (2008) Environmental Needs Assessment in Post-Disaster Situations: A Practical Guide for Implementation.

Recovering from a disaster

Environmental recovery includes the restoration and regeneration of:

  • biodiversity (species and plants) and ecosystems
  • natural resources
  • environmental infrastructure
  • amenity or aesthetics (e.g. scenic lookouts)
  • culturally significant sites and heritage structures.

It also includes the management of environmental health, waste, contamination and pollution, and hazardous materials.

Recovering the environment involves the coordinated process of supporting affected communities to:

Identify impacts and risks associated with an event – including air quality, water quality, soil and groundwater, landscapes, ecosystems and wildlife.

  • Manage environmental health, waste, contamination and pollution, and hazardous materials.
  • Rehabilitate, conserve and supporting the recovery of impacted (or at risk) terrestrial, aquatic, and marine ecosystems, wildlife, landscapes, and natural resources.
  • Undertake activities to facilitate the restoration and regeneration of biodiversity (species and plants) and ecosystems, natural resources, environmental infrastructure, and amenity/ aesthetics (scenic outlooks).
  • Recover and conserve impacted or at risk indigenous cultural heritage values and built heritage places.
  • Support long-term community sustainability needs, such as associated with reinstating environmental protections and ecosystem services, and advancing Ecologically Sustainable Development principles in built environment recovery, economic recovery, and waste management.
  • Ensure environmental bodies, affected communities and interest groups are involved in decision making process.