Disaster waste management for the 2009 Samoan tsunami.
The 2009 Samoan Tsunami killed 143 and affected 4389 people. Before communities could begin to rebuild, the tonnes of potentially hazardous (to public health and the environment) debris had to be removed. Interviews were conducted with professionals involved in, and affected by, the tsunami debris clean-up in April 2010. A number of government and international non-governmental organisation initiated clean-up programmes in affected communities. Terrestrial waste clearance was prioritised ahead of coast, marine and wetland areas. Generally a combination of community and contracted labour was used during the clean-up. Some material was salvaged for temporary shelter and recycling, however, the majority of the waste was disposed of at Tafaigata landfill. An overall strategy and strong leadership in waste management activities was absent – leading to a string of discrete, nonstrategic and varied interventions. There appeared to have been no overall coordination, and no waste management strategy from the international community, or the Government of Samoa’s Ministry of Natural Resource and Environment (MNRE). The MNRE lacked the physical and financial resources and oversight to deal with the waste efficiently and holistically. In the future a more coordinated approach would be beneficial. Key waste programme components such as financing, waste management programme implementation and environmental standards varied between organisations and there was little cohesion and consistency. This resulted in mixed and incomplete outcomes from the clean-up works. Inconsistencies included: varying levels of recycling; expectations on community participation in debris cleanup (paid and non-paid; waste segregation vs. mixed waste collection); different standards in clean-up service provided between villages.