Manager Environmental Systems, BMT Asia Pacific (Singapore)
Email: [email protected]
It is argued that the environment can now be considered a security issue because of the increasingly unsustainable features of modern development. The concept of security is evolving to embrace interlocking elements of military security, humanitarian security, economic security and environmental security. The fact that many Navies of the world often find themselves deployed on humanitarian assistance, disaster relief or fisheries protection reflects the changing concept of security within the coastal zone.
Environmental security is described as the capability to protect communities and their natural environments from threats of: (1) environmental asset scarcity arising through environmental degradation or depletion, (2) environmental risks arising from natural hazards or technological disasters and, (3) environment related tensions and conflicts. Threats may include, but not be restricted to, emergencies arising from natural disasters (tsunami, earthquake, extreme weather, coastal flooding, landslide, erosion) major accidents (oil spill, ship casualty), illegal discharges and bilge dumping, illegal fishing, trafficking (people, endangered species, waste, drugs and contraband), and robbery at sea, piracy or civil unrest. Notwithstanding what have been termed ‘creeping disasters’, namely sea level rise and drought.
When considering how we protect communities against environmental risk we should first recognize that the impact of hazards is often unique to the locations at which they occur. Secondly we should acknowledge that we are unlikely to be able to accurately predict the probability of a disaster occurring at any particular place or time. Therefore vulnerability assessments are proposed as being an essential tool for communities to exploit in developing capacity to mitigate and recover from the impact of disasters. It is proposed that the spatial analysis of vulnerability will reveal a communities natural resilience to disaster and allow them to exploit early warning systems through efficient mitigation of a range of threats. Vulnerability mapping may be coupled with routine surveillance using Earth Observation (EO) to strengthen early warning systems within the coastal zone.
For remote sensing to be fully exploited in protecting communities a thorough examination of the information available from EO data is required in relation to disaster risk. Firstly indicators need to be developed that describe the social, economic and environmental assets (quality of life capital) and infrastructure at risk within a community. Secondly indicators need to be developed from EO data to describe the vulnerability and resilience of each asset to disaster risk. This would allow a mosaic of assets to be built that describe a communities overall resilience to hazards (e.g. coastal flooding, mudslides or the threat of oil spill from major accidents). Finally coastal surveillance and information dissemination infrastructures need to be commissioned for the routine surveillance of threats, early warning and historical analysis of coastal hazards.
1.0 ENVIRONMENTAL SECURITY
1.1 Responses to the Issue of Environmental Security
The vision of sustainable coastal communities and the achievement of the millennium development goals are undermined by the threat of illegal or negligent human activity and natural disasters. Environmental crimes and environmental emergencies or catastrophes are increasingly being recognized as breaches of environmental security. Causes may include, but not be restricted to, emergencies arising through natural disasters (tsunami, extreme weather, coastal flooding, landslide, erosion) major accidents (oil spill, ship casualty), illegal bilge dumping, illegal fishing, trafficking (people, endangered species, waste, drugs and contraband), and robbery at sea, piracy or civil unrest. Notwithstanding what have been termed ‘creeping disasters’, namely sea level rise and drought. A wide range of threats and hazards may potentially undermine the physical, economic and psychological security of communities and the sensitive marine habitats that their lives and livelihoods are so closely associated with.
The Millennium Project acts as a global think tank to guide future decision making by considering global change at an international level, including environmental security. Environmental security was recognized by the Millennium Project as an important policy framework that could be used to improve human security and good governance. Key issues addressed through policy on environmental security include (1) environmental protection, (2) responding to environmentally caused conflicts or emergencies and (3) addressing damage to the environment caused by military action. Although an accepted definition of environmental security is still emerging, recurring themes of policies on environmental security have been identified and include:
Environmental Surveillance – New sensor technologies, increasing environmental awareness and international agreements mean that what was acceptable in the past, in terms of environmental protection and performance, may not be acceptable in the future;
- Early Warning and Response – A requirement for more sophisticated early warning systems and post conflict or disaster response, relief and recovery;
- Environmental Refugees – Environmental causes of conflict, civil emergency, and economic or social instability are expected to increase as either environmental deterioration or natural disasters increase the number of environmental refugees;
- Role of Defense & Security – Growing expectations that the military should respond to environmental disasters and emergencies, whether they are caused by military action or not. :
- Public Participation – Environmental issues continue to rise on the international political agenda and there is a growing expectation of increased public and NGO participation in shaping national, regional and international policy, legislation and treaties;
- Application of International Law – Environmental security may increasingly be in conflict with development and the possibility of legal mechanisms being used to address environmental degradation through the recovery of damages seems inevitable;