Urban Environmental Management
EMS for Cities
Putting up a Green Front
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Disaster Management and EMSs

For many cities that face the risk of natural disasters - whether floods, earthquakes or typhoons/cyclones - having a clear preparedness plan is key in ensuring that the damage to life and property is kept to a minimum possible. A disaster preparedness plan requires a number of issues to be considered: assessing vulnerability to crises and natural disasters; establishing early-warning systems; developing and maintaining a framework of developmental responses and other contingency disaster plans. forming and strengthening disaster management teams; integrating disaster preparedness, mitigation, prevention, and response programmes into development programmes; identifying and engaging communities; regular reporting and updating of disaster risk, as a part of the early warning process.

ISO 14001 defines a voluntary environmental management system. Used in conjunction with appropriate goals, and with management commitment, the standards help improve environmental performance and reduce negative impacts. They provide an objective basis for verifying claims about a local government's environmental performance in its day-to-day operations. How can disaster preparedness issues be incorporated into an EMS?

There are essentially two ways in which this can be done.

  • As a part of the EMS:
    Emergency preparedness is an integral part of the EMS. An organization that is seeking to develop and implement an EMS, in order to obtain ISO 14001 certification has to inherently have an emergency preparedness plan. The objective of such a plan is to identify potential emergencies and develop procedures for preventing and responding to them. While many of these include chemical spills, hazardous wastes, fire risks, and other such man-made causes, it can very well include natural disasters too.

  • By making it a Significant Environmental Aspect (SEAs):
    An EMS is essentially operationalized through the identification of 'significant environmental aspects.' Environmental aspects, within the purview of an EMS, are attributes of the organization's products, activities and services, and their environmental impacts. These impacts may relate to the local as well as global environments. In a region where disasters are a key phenomena, an organization can include it in their process of identifying their SEAs. What will the impact be of a disaster (particularly a natural disaster such as an earthquake or a flood) on the SEA?

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Contact: Hari Srinivas - hsrinivas@gdrc.org