Summer is a bitter sweet season in much of Southern Africa in that it brings with it much needed summer rains and a variety of fruits, but it also brings with it erratic weather patterns.
Storms are a common occurrence here, and they usually result in such serious harm to property that many locations are declared disaster areas.
Natural phenomena such as storms and resultant floods can result in environmental damage. Such damage emanates from ignorance as to how to manage a natural disaster.
Some of these disasters occur in remote areas where assistance from the government may take days to reach those impacted. When assistance finally reaches those areas, it is usually medical and construction personnel, to the exclusion of people with environmental management expertise.
It would be unfair to blame the government for the omission, rather it must be noted that the problem really stems from the fact that environmental management is hardly incorporated in disaster management strategies. Environmental management is needed as part of a holistic approach to disaster relief.
Issues such as riverbank management are required, especially where people still draw water from the local river, and freshwater fish is a vital food source. Excessive and rapid erosion of the banks of a river can compromise the water quality, and it can also destroy the aquatic habitat.
What may then follow is that in the long term a community is left with a depleted and contaminated water source. Furthermore the fish that once were readily available may migrate to deeper water. So it is quite imperative that when disasters strike, there is synergy among different government and non-governmental agencies working on environment and disaster management activities.
Natural disasters can wreak havoc, but it is important to recognise that such havoc occurs on many different levels, the environment being one of them.
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