Before a site is selected, a rapid environmental assessment should be carried out. A more detailed and thorough assessment should be conducted at a later stage when the more urgent, life-saving humanitarian priorities have been addressed.
The environment and surrounding landscape of the site can be managed through a Community-based Environmental Action Plan (CEAP) that identifies critical environmental and related livelihood and social issues. A CEAP may also help determine what demands can be met without degrading the environment or negatively affecting the welfare of host communities. The Camp Management Agency must coordinate with key stakeholders to ensure responses are tailored as much as possible to the camp’s landscape. The action plan should also serve as a baseline for future monitoring.
Existing natural resources need to be managed effectively and sustainably within the camp and in the surrounding area, for the benefit and safety of the displaced population and host community. The Camp Management Agency should identify ecosystems and specific natural resources, such as forests or groundwater, that might be at risk and that need to be protected throughout the life of the camp. It is often easier, cheaper and more effective to protect as much of the natural vegetation in and around a camp as possible, than to attempt to restore it.
Where natural resources such as wood or bamboo are brought into a camp for shelter construction, fodder, roofing materials or firewood, environmental impacts need to be considered.
Environmental issues can trigger disputes and conflict between host and camp communities as the natural environment may represent a common source of economic support. The Camp Management Agency needs to be conscious of the fact that this may happen at any stage of the camp life cycle.
Host communities should be involved in decisions relating to local management and extraction of natural resources. They should also benefit from some environmental support activities, such as tree planting, awareness raising, have access to fuel-efficient stoves and improved animal husbandry practices through, for example, occasional veterinary programmes.
The Camp Management Agency should ensure that available environmental guidelines are applied. Environmental Committees, with representatives from both the host and camp communities, should be established early in the camp's life cycle to ensure that this responsibility is translated into action. The Camp Management Agency should ensure that such committees are well-briefed on experiences learned and documented in other displacement situations. These should always be adapted to the local context.
The Camp Management Agency should ensure that not only visible impacts on the environment, such as the restoration or rehabilitation of vegetation cover, are addressed. It should also note such issues as overuse of groundwater resources or contamination of surface or groundwater. This is also important towards the closure of a camp.