Water and sanitation initiatives can have significant environment impacts as they consume natural resources and generate waste that can be detrimental to the environment and public health. Oxfam is committed to a “do no harm” approach across its humanitarian work and as good practice WASH programmes should consider and mitigating any potential negative environmental impacts.
In 2021, Oxfam joined over 200 other agencies in signed up to the Climate and Environment Charter for Humanitarian organisations. This commits us to decrease waste and pollution, measure greenhouse gas emissions and systematically evaluate, avoid and mitigate negative environmental impacts associated with our work.
Developing Countries are already the hardest hit by the impacts of Climate Change and growing recognition that the impact of climate change and other environmental challenges will likely “increase the number of disasters and humanitarian needs exponentially” (IFRC 2019). It is no longer acceptable to consider the environment as a secondary consideration or incompatible to the humanitarian imperative.
Below are some examples of what Oxfam is already doing:
- Investing in renewable energy, e.g. solar pumping.
- Limit energy consumption and improve energy efficiency.
- Safe disposal of sanitation waste.
- Segregation of waste, recycling and composting
- Reduce solid waste through promoting re-use, re-purposing and recycling.
- Targeted solid waste clean-up activities/campaigns with affected/host community.
- Groundwater monitoring, preserve water sources and avoid over-extraction
- Ensure wastewater does not pose a health or environmental hazard.
- Local procurement (where environmental sustainability and quality is assured).
With a growing recognition that everyone needs to do more, Oxfam is in the process of developing a series of practical tools and guidelines for field WASH teams to support this commitment which will be posted here.
This checklist provides a quick reference for Oxfam WASH personnel and partners, to get a quick understanding of how different WASH activities impact the environment in which a WASH intervention is being carried out, and consequently begin to consider what measures at project design should be implemented to mitigate or reduce adverse impacts on the environment