UNEP has just released a report After the Tsunami: Rapid Environmental Assessment
It can also be downloaded as a 9mB pdf file.
[Rebuilding should be done] in a manner that preserves natural resources for the benefit of the local communities who were hardest hit by the disaster, a new report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) says. Vulnerability mapping is urgently needed to pin point coastal sites where homes, hotels, factories and other infrastructure should be banned or restricted. …. This makes sense not only in respect to tsunamis but also with respect to storms surges, floods, hurricanes and other extreme weather events.”
The New Scientist has a short article about the report. They write:
Fresh water supplies including groundwater, irrigation channels and even wells, were severely contaminated in all seven of the tsunami-hit countries studied by UNEP – Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, the Seychelles, Yemen and Somalia. All the freshwater sources on many islands – including all of Sri Lanka’s wells – are thought to be polluted.
Water sources have been poisoned by sea water, sewage, human and animal decomposition and oil leaks, the report found. Toxic materials from damaged buildings have also been a problem, including asbestos, radioactive products and heavy metals. On beaches in Somalia, for example, the tsunami stirred up nuclear and hazardous waste deposits that had been dumped during the country’s long civil war.
Eric Falt, a UNEP spokesperson, told New Scientist that lessons could be learnt from the disaster, and much of the environmental damage need not be repeated. “It’s an opportunity for planners to do things differently; to not build so close to the sea and for shrimp farmers not to repeat the destruction of mangroves,” he said.”
Wildlife appears to have fared better than other environmental aspects. But many of Sri Lanka’s important turtle nesting sites were destroyed and there are reports that these severely endangered creatures are being eaten by desperately hungry local people.
However, there has also been some good news – turtles on Tanjung Bungah beach in Malaysia have taken advantage of the lack of tourists to begin breeding. More than 30 baby Olive Ridley sea turtles emerged onto the usually packed beach on 16 February, prompting a local campaign for a protected nest area.