Earthquakes can be devastating to built infrastructure and the natural environment, as evidenced by the March 2011, M = 9.0 earthquake, and subsequent tsunami, in Japan. As seen in the Japanese event, environmental damage caused by secondary disasters (tsunami, leakage from a nuclear reactor) can equal or exceed the impacts of the primary event. In order to develop an environmental assessment system to examine secondary disasters, a comprehensive environmental impact evaluation was conducted after the Wenchuan earthquake that occurred on 12 May 2008 in the Sichuan Province, China. This evaluation focused on several key environmental elements such as wastewater, drinking water, soil, solid waste, radiation, and ecosystem-level effects. As part of this assessment, an analysis of root causes and potential solutions was conducted for key issues such as population relocation and resettlement in temporary dwellings, recovery of environmental protection functions, industrial development strategies and production recovery. Methods for post-quake environmental assessment were developed, utilizing GIS-based techniques for spatial evaluation of primary and secondary disaster patterns. The goal of this exercise was the development of effective assessment methods that can be rapidly applied in a post-disaster situation to reduce and mitigate damage caused by secondary disasters, and facilitate the recovery of impaired environmental management structure and function. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.
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