In June 2007, Sheffield experienced two spells of exceptionally heavy rainfall. This resulted in unprecedented events in the city and the evacuation of a number of properties and people. At Weston Park Museum in Sheffield, the meteorological department recorded 118 mm of rainfall between 13th and 14thof June and 88mm between 24th and 25th June. This resulted in saturation of the ground, in turn causing massive flooding in Barnsley and Sheffield in the mornings after mainly from surface run-off that overwhelmed the existing drainage systems. By the end of the month, the floods had damaged about four thousand personal property and more than one thousand business premises.
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The South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue were overwhelmed by the floods, and the havoc caused, and reinforcement was provided by the military personnel. In total, the floods caused significant financial losses and damage to the environment (Tinsley & Pillai, 2006). This paper will evaluate environmental management and management systems, examine international environmental concerns such as the greenhouse effect, ozone depletion, and many others. The paper will also identify and analyze the relevant regulatory frameworks and assess the new technologies and approaches to environmental management in relation to the events that took place in Sheffield.
Environmental management and management systems
The environment is an integral part of our day to day life. The air we breathe, the water we drink, and all that surrounds us make our environment. The importance of taking care of the environment can never be overemphasized. Governments, local authorities, organizations, and individuals have realized the importance of protecting the environment. This has been christened “environment management.” Many organizations have come up with comprehensive structures, programs, policies, and other resources to manage the environment. The organized management of these environmental programs in a well-planned format is referred to as the Environmental Management System (EMS).
In general terms, the environment management system entails the formulation of structures by an organization or government that aims to tackle any challenges or negative impacts on the environment that may arise from undertakings by the organization or government, their products, or services. The environment management system follows a definite model that involves developing a policy on related environmental issues, followed by a clear plan that allows flexibility in terms of reviewing and improving the system and implementation of the program (Tinsley & Pillai, 2006).
The EMS basically serves as a guide in an effort to improve the performance of the environment, in a well-outlined formula developed by an agency or government. Through the system, governments and organizations aim to address any concerns related to the environment by setting apart resources to handle the environmental-related resources. An effective environmental management system adopted by an organization should inculcate the culture of considering the day to day effects of employees’ activities on the environment to ensure they contribute to the overall organization’s mandate to protect the environment.
The events of June 2007 in Sheffield following the flooding in the area exposed the weaknesses of the county’s environmental management system. The inability of the South Yorkshire fire and rescue unit to prevent or control the effects of the floods showed there is an urgent need to have an effective EMS not only in the county but the whole of England. There is a need for a review of the legislation on the environment as currently, it does not support the employment of natural processes in the management of natural disasters such as floods. There exists a need to comprehensively amend the laws from defense to the sustainable management of such events as flooding. All local authorities need to adopt sustainable models of environmental management to support the efforts of the environment agency.
Apart from developing policies, the central government needs to allocate enough resources to the sustainable environment management course. England urgently needs to subsidize the flood management services as well as offer incentives to all individuals who adopt ecosystem management in their day to day operations to encourage a nationwide sustainable environmental management culture. In line with the European Union Water Framework Directive, there is a need to restore wetlands and flood plains in an effort to reduce the risks of floods. Systematic monitoring of local floods and other disaster management strategies by a national agency would greatly help improve the effectiveness of these schemes (Sheldon & Yoxon, 2002).
International environmental concerns such as the Greenhouse effect, Ozone depletion
Environmental degradation is a major concern for the entire world. This degradation has been linked to many causative factors. Human manipulation of the environment has been pointed to as the main cause of this degradation. The alarming rate of population growth has surpassed the sustainable provision of the environment. This has resulted in overexploitation of the inadequate available resources.
The encroachment of forest reserves by human populations, atmospheric pollution, and the associated climate changes such as global warming can all be attributed to the rapid population growth. Climate change has now completely destabilized the global environment to a large extent forcing many stakeholders to rush in an effort to control the forthcoming disaster. International agreements and protocols have been formulated in an effort to curb the challenges of environmental degradation (Mintzer, 1992).
Uncommon vulgarises of nature have aroused concern among environmentalists and government agencies in many parts of the world. Areas that never experienced floods and or droughts are now experiencing such phenomena bringing into sharp focus on the effect of human activity on the environment. In some parts of the world, such as Australia and India, have registered unusual increases in temperature, a direct effect of depletion of the ozone layer.
Events of flash floods in England that rocked and destroyed property and led to the loss of life in the Sheffield region are examples of the unusual events associated with the changes in the environmental conditions in many parts of the world. The effects of greenhouse gases on the environment are now evident. At normal levels, the greenhouse gases are useful to the environment, but human activities have added their concentrations to excessive levels that have turned disastrous (Mintzer, 1992).
Carbon dioxide, a leading greenhouse gas, is the most commonly released through processes such as the burning of fossil fuels and wood. Methane is also emitted by processes such as organic waste decomposition and from livestock wastes. Agricultural and industrial processes release poisonous amounts of nitrous oxide. Other gases that caused havoc to the environment are hydrofluoric carbons and sulfur hexafluoride emitted by some industries.
These greenhouse gases have had resulted in a unique phenomenon called global warming, which is a rise in atmospheric temperature. The ozone layer, a protective layer that protects against dangerous ultraviolet rays of the sun, has been experiencing rapid depletion due to the effect of chlorine and bromine elements emanating from human activities.
Chlorofluoric compounds used in air conditioners and fringes are the leading substances depleting the ozone layer. With the reduced ozone layer, the penetration of the ultraviolet radiation will increase with potentially adverse effects on human and animal life. Scientists have identified a link between ultraviolet rays and increased risk of skin cancer. The high levels of radiation could also destroy the tropical climate with associated loss of aquatic biodiversities such as fish and planktons. With such grave effects being expected, then the concern on these phenomena has nevertheless captured global attention (Mintzer, 1992).
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The appropriate response to these effects has begun in earnest with the formation of the “United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change” in 1992, which aimed to address the challenges of the greenhouse gas menace. The Kyoto Protocol was another strategy aimed at reducing the emission of green house gases by leading industrialized nations such as America and Japan. Many more agreements have been developed, all with an aim to look for ways to tackle the emerging environmental challenges (Mintzer, 1992).
Regulatory Frameworks on Environment
Environmental management is under a legal framework that may involve policy formulation, acts of parliament, or international laws that ensure its effective implementation. In England, for instance, the regulatory framework is structured by the Environment Agency (EA). The agency bases its regulations on the principles of Environmental Permitting Regulations on which it considers regulations governing air, water, and land pollution, among other environmental pollutions. International frameworks regulating the environment are mainly policy statements. These define the actions that states adopt in an effort to protect against environmental degradation.
In England, the Water and Catchments Protection Act outline actions to be taken to protect water sources and resources. It outlines the role of the county and central governments in protecting wetlands and protecting personal property from the effects of floods. The effects of the floods that rocked Sheffield in 2007, according to this act, were squarely laid on the South Yorkshire County since the mandate to protect the environment is theirs. The United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) is a body under the United Nations convention with a mandate to constitute a regulatory framework governing the world environment (Bekhechi & Mercier, 2002).
New Technologies and Approaches to Environmental Management
Environmental management involves very complex data. To understand and interpret this data, simplification is necessary. This would entail describing the reallocation of the data and an elaborate description of the physical features. This data has been expressed manually for centuries that were usually inaccurate. Today new technologies and approaches are in use in environmental management.
These include; Computer mapping adopted in the 1970s, which automated the entire process of map drafting. In the 1980s, Spatial Database Management Systems (SDBMS) revolutionized computer mapping techniques by improving the traditional data management techniques concerning the environment. With continued advancement in technology, the automated traditional environmental data was combined with GIS Modelling, a technique that integrates mathematical calculations in programming environmental data. The computer mapping techniques and spatial database methods of management are still undergoing scientific improvement to meet the emerging environmental data sets requirements and solve new complex environmental challenges (Berry, 1999).
Environmental management is an integral part of all organizations’ and government agencies’ structures. With the continued environmental degradation, the concern is mounting about human activity and its influence on the environment. Unique changes in climate and other environmental-related phenomena such as global warming have also aroused interest from stakeholders. The formulation of relevant regulatory frameworks and the adoption of modern technologies in environmental management are some of the efforts being put in place to address environmental-related challenges.
Bekhechi, M. A. & Mercier, J. R. 2002, The legal and regulatory framework for environmental impact assessments, Washington, DC, World Bank.
Berry, J. K. 1999, GIS Technology in environmental management: a brief history, trends and probable future, Fort Collins, Colorado.
Mintzer, I. M. 1992, confronting climate change: risks, implications, and responses, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
Sheldon, C. & Yoxon, M. 2002, Installing environmental management systems: a step-by-step guide, London, Earthscan.
Tinsley, S. & Pillai, L. 2006, Environmental management systems: understanding organizational drivers and barriers, London, Earthscan.