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Asian Tsunami Disaster
Asian Tsunami Disaster
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The Key Environmental Issues

Waste: The mountains of waste that were left behind by the tsunami now constituted one of the greatest short-term environmental risks to human health. Most of the waste has been collected and dumped at locations that were practical at the time, but which may now be threatening groundwater and nearby soils. Some of this waste is also being burned, releasing toxic substances into the air including dioxins. The waste that was washed back out to sea also poses a threat to fragile corals as it is pounded into the reefs by wave action.

Water: The tsunami impacted water quality by flooding septic tanks and pit latrines and causing their contents to contaminate ground and surface water. Seawater also penetrated into groundwater tables, making the water unfit for human consumption. Adding to this problem is that fact that the tsunami also destroyed rural water supply systems across the region.

Coral Reefs and Mangrove Forests: The studies tend to show that where coral reef and mangrove ecosystems were intact and healthy, they served as a natural buffer and first line of defence from the power of the wave, thereby limiting the amount of damage. Where these features were either severely degraded or completely removed, the tsunami was able to smash its way on to land and devastate coastal communities. This lesson needs to be taken into account during the reconstruction process.

Environmental Risks of Reconstruction: Haphazard groundwater extraction, unsanitary disposal of waste, chaotic reconstruction of homes, ill-planned transport routes and unsustainable timber harvesting for reconstruction materials could all lead to long term environmental damage, thereby increasing both poverty and vulnerability to future disasters. The capacities of the environmental authorities have been overstretched and cannot meet the demands of reconstruction planning.

 

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