September 1, 1996
The assessment of the environmental impacts of refugees has been a neglected subject. In environmental terms, all the recent emphasis has been on environmental degradation which may have forced some people to become “environmental refugees” and not on the environmental impacts created by the refugees themselves. From a strictly environmental viewpoint, large numbers of refugees are likely to contribute to considerable stress, a fact that has basically been ignored by the environmental profession and agencies. This paper analyses the environmental impacts of the Rwandan refugees in Zaire on the basis of a field assessment. The results indicate that the environmental impacts of the refugees are substantial, and in certain areas, critical, and thus can no longer be ignored.