MSc, BSc (Hons), CMarSci MIMarEST
Manager Environmental Systems
BMT Asia Pacific (Singapore)
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;
1.2 Definition of Environmental Security
The concept of security is evolving into a view that embraces interlocking elements of military security, economic security, humanitarian security and environmental security. 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 environmental security is becoming accepted as the capability to protect social systems (communities) and their natural environments from threats of: – Environmental asset scarcity arising through environmental degradation or depletion; – Environmental risks arising from natural hazards or technological disasters and; – Environment related tensions and conflicts. Environmental security should focus on protecting social systems that tie a community’s quality of life to their environmental assets. Sustainability and environmental security will then be mutually reinforcing as sustainable development will allow communities to pursue growth to improve their quality of life, whilst environmental security will safeguard whatever environmental assets a community exploits to maintain and promote quality of life.
2.1 Environmental Risk
Most threat assessments rely on risk based methodologies to predict the probability of a hazard and the consequences of impact. However risk based approaches often lack adequate statistical data on the probability of hazards, making their prediction difficult or even impossible. Current risk based approaches to environmental security are considered to fail in their ability to protect communities from natural or technological disasters. For example the viability of risk based methodologies has been challenged by the fact that attributing probabilities to extreme weather has been complicated by climate change (the future will not be the same as the past).
As impacts of hazards are often unique to the locations at which they occur, and given that we are unlikely to be able to predict the probability of a disaster occurring, vulnerability assessments are proposed as being fundamental to protecting communities through policy on environmental security. Developing an understanding of vulnerability within communities may be one of the few routes to achieving genuine environmental security (i.e. indicators on vulnerability and resilience to disaster risk).
2.2 Knowledge Management
The implementation of emerging policy on environmental security will need to identify key data sets that are required to protect communities. Implementation will include the selection of suitable geographical information technologies to manage and disseminate information to stakeholders. Knowledge derived from information on a community’s vulnerability and resilience to disaster is expected to drive decision support systems through early warning and the spatial analysis of potential losses they may face. Vulnerability mapping is likely to be based on the adoption of remote sensing, web based technologies and e-science.
The key to strengthening environmental security is believed to be the development of a community’s capacity to prevent, mitigate, respond and recover from disaster risk and major accidents, negligence or crimes (natural and technological disasters or environmental crimes) that undermine a community’s viability. This requires a greater exchange of information and education between policy makers, security forces, civil defense, regulators, industry and genuine civil stakeholders. Exploitation of current surveillance technology and information fusion techniques could potentially empower communities to manage disaster risk through decision support, information exchange and community engagement. The presumption is that communities hold knowledge as social capital that should be exploited during each stage of the disaster cycle. Opportunities to capture this social capital within decision support systems should be encouraged through research, industry and the development of prototype systems. The development of prototype systems should include an assessment of whether it is feasible to capture and fuse information describing social capital with information on infrastructure and hazards.
2.3 Vulnerability Assessment
Geo-information technology is one type of environmental technology that is increasingly being applied to environmental management, disaster management and emergency response; as such it is an appropriate technology to promote environmental security. In order to create a Common Operating Picture of potential threats information systems will require geospatial information infrastructures, capable of warehousing a range of EO imagery from space borne, airborne and ground sensors. Such infrastructures will not only be required to store and disseminate information but to fuse social, economic and environmental information (both spatial and non spatial) to achieve a complete picture of the level of risk associated with a local threat (e.g. flooding, mud slide, oil spill).
If EO and remote sensing are to be fully exploited in protecting communities against disaster risk a thorough examination of the information available from a range of EO data is required. 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 describes the communities overall resilience to hazards (e.g. coastal flooding, mud slides 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.
3.0 COASTAL SURVEILLANCE
Maritime Security may be considered to be the protection of assets and infrastructure that allow a Nation to pursue sustainable economic growth through sea borne trade and coastal zone development. The events that unfolded after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre on September the 11th 2001 challenged the status-quo on the issue of security. The re-evaluation of National security policies that followed September the 11th revealed coastal surveillance was ‘off the radar’ and that information on threats and risks within the coastal zone was fragmented and piecemeal.
3.1 Coastal Surveillance & Environmental Security
The implementation of measures for maritime security has brought greater attention to the issue of environmental security and the need for coastal surveillance. The current implementation of policy on maritime security is routinely addressing operational responses to humanitarian and environmental issues. Presumably because the same actors that are conventionally responsible for security threats, such as robbery at sea, piracy and terrorism are responding to environmental security issues. E.g. fishery protection, counter pollution and natural disasters. The apparent lack of information on activities within the coastal zone supported the need to develop Domain Awareness in an attempt to establish a Common Operating Picture of all threats to security within the coastal zone (littoral security). National security policies recognized Domain Awareness as “the effective compilation, analysis and dissemination of sensor information and fusion of all other relevant information sources”. However no one sensor on any one platform could provide a single source of information adequate enough to develop complete maritime Domain Awareness.
Earth Observation (EO) and remote sensing are now routinely applied in the conventional security domain. Not surprisingly, where information infrastructures exist for information exchange, the same sensors used in homeland security applications can be utilized for civil defense, surveillance and monitoring of environmental threats. The application of these technologies to coastal surveillance and vulnerability mapping could provide increased opportunities for the promotion of environmental security; through early warning, emergency response, relief efforts, rebuilding communities and the adoption of Geographical Information technology.
4.0 OIL SPILL POLLUTION MONITORING
Threats arising from human activities within the coastal zone, either through genuine accidents, negligence or illegal behavior, cannot be ignored when considering environmental security. The risk of a major oil spill or the cumulative impact of persistent minor oil spills and other forms of marine pollution have long been recognized as threatening the balance of coastal communities. Paradoxically policy in this area of environmental security is well developed and has received particular attention in relation to a number of prominent ship casualties and subsequent oil spills.
The MARPOL Convention is the main international convention covering prevention of pollution of the marine environment by ships from operational or accidental causes. The convention has, by and large, been a success however monitoring and enforcement remain key issues and satellite oil spill monitoring services have begun to play a more prominent role in oil pollution monitoring. Earth Observation satellites, such as RADARSAT-1 and its successor RADARSAT-2, can routinely detect oil slicks on the sea surface using C-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR). SAR instruments are effective in detecting oil slicks because of the microwave signals that they employ. Oil suppresses capillary waves at the sea surface reflecting the microwave energy away from the satellite sensor. The result is that oil on the sea surface is seen as dark or black areas on the satellite radar image.
Figure 1a: Illegal bilge dump from a ship observed off the coast of Iryan Jaya, Indonesia using RADARSAT-1. Source – Radarsat International
Figure 1b: RADARSAT-1 imagery used in coastal surveillance for ship detection. Source – Radarsat International
Figure 1c: Illegal bilge dump from a ship observed in the West Java Sea, Indonesia using RADARSAT-1.
Figure 1d: RADARSAT-1 imagery used in coastal zone monitoring, Surabaya, Eastern Java, Indonesia. Source – Radarsat International
Large oil spills are estimated as representing only 20% of the annual total of oil illegally discharged at sea. Far more detrimental to the environment is a phenomenon that rarely makes the headlines; the accumulation of hundreds of minor oil spills caused by oil/oily water discharges illegally made by ships (bilge dumping). Satellite oil pollution surveillance is ideally suited to provide routine monitoring of bilge dumping from ships and provides visibility of the extent of the problem with respect to MARPOL enforcement.
MARPOL Annex I, Regulation 9 makes the following recommendation to those Countries who are party to the Convention:
“Whenever visible traces of oil are observed on or below the surface of the water in the immediate vicinity of a ship or its wake, Governments of Parties to the Convention should, to the extent they are reasonably able to do so, promptly investigate the facts bearing on the issue of whether there has been a violation….The investigation should include, in particular, the wind and sea conditions, the track and speed of the ship, other possible sources of the visible traces in the vicinity, and any relevant oil discharge records”.
Figure 2: Information needs analysis indicating the role of routine coastal surveillance in MARPOL enforcement.
Any violation of the MARPOL 73/78 Convention within the jurisdiction of any Party to the Convention is punishable either under the law of that Party or under the law of the flag State. Violation can refer to the illegal discharge of oil and / or the failure to maintain equipment and valid international certificates. Violation may be detected at sea in association with the illegal discharge event; by evidence of pollution after the fact (e.g. oil washed ashore); or by inspection of a ship and its records at the next port of call.
Figure 3: A schematic showing the process flow used in the routine operation of oil pollution surveillance and how added value is given by the fusion of information relating to ship profiling, port state control, met-ocean information and environmental vulnerability mapping.
Growing public expectations of coastal and ocean governance could be a significant driver for better public and private access to information on environmental risk. Particularly where those risks relate to:
- Environmental asset scarcity arising through environmental degradation or depletion;
- Environmental risks arising from natural hazards or technological disasters and;
- Environment related tensions and conflicts.
The practical application of good governance requires that community vulnerability to each of these threats is well understood through the development of adequate geographical information infrastructures. The capacity to mitigate threats, guide community responses to loss or degradation and rebuild livelihoods requires a substantial knowledge base, if it is to be sustainable.
A significant step to achieving this may be through investing in information infrastructures that ingest environmental information as part of a routine surveillance, early warning and response network.
Figure 4: Concept schematic of a Regional Environmental Risk Monitoring Information Centre ERMIC with essential component blocks.
The beneficial outcomes of such marine information infrastructures may include the capacity to:
- Build knowledge of the environment: any system accumulating data through monitoring of the marine environment should use these data to create knowledge about the quality of the environment and the potential threats to the environment;
- Minimise cost burden of information: stakeholder based information systems incorporating a shared cost principle will ensure that the burden of cost is minimised and fairly distributed between actors;
- Public, private partnerships: Public and corporate interests can be addressed alongside each other through Government/ Industry partnerships in Earth Observation.
- Community based information sharing: information sharing is desirable and feasible through information infrastructures that allow public access to information on environmental risk and threats to the quality of the environment.
The fact that the same geospatial information infrastructures used in conventional security applications can be utilized in the surveillance and monitoring of environmental threats makes their inclusion compelling in any discussion of environmental security. Existing resources tasked with the maintenance of maritime security could be leveraged for the maintenance of environmental security through law enforcement (e.g. marine intelligence, AIS, remote sensing and MARPOL enforcement).
The holy grail of maritime security remains that of developing a Common Operating Picture of the potential threats to civil society through maritime domain awareness. In this respect, environmental security will be no different and the definition of environmental security should be expanded to include what have been termed ‘environmental crimes’. This will assist in developing a comprehensive Common Operating Picture of the state of our environment.