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Environmental values, valuation methods and natural disaster damage assessment. United Nations – ECLAC,WP n.37 Serie Medio Ambiente y Desarrollo.




It is largely agreed that successful development depends on the rational use of natural capital (World Bank, 1998). In recent years, advances have been made to measuring progress toward ‘sustainable development’ (Kunte et al., 1998), and in applying valuation techniques to the analysis of the environmental impacts of investment projects and public policies, both in developed and developing countries (Barbier, 1998). Natural capital is not exclusively endangered by human actions (or inactions). Environmental (quantity or quality) changes may also be induced by natural hazards which, besides altering the natural capital’s intrinsic ‘productivity’, may negatively affect People’s ‘ability to exploit’ environmental attributes. In 1999, the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has published a Manual for Estimating the Socio-Economic Effects of Natural Disasters (ECLAC, 1991) which intends to be a tool aimed at professionals engaged in the valuation of natural disasters’ socio-economic impacts. ECLAC has recently undertaken a revision process, aimed at expanding the scope of the Manual. One of the objectives of this interdisciplinary upgrading process is to incorporate ‘environmental values’ into disaster damage assessment. The aim of this paper is to contribute to this process, by (i) illustrating the concept of environmental values from an economic perspective, (ii) providing an overview of valuation methods aimed at quantifying these values in monetary terms, and (iii) making a preliminary attempt to identify a strategy for integrating environmental damages into natural disaster impact assessment.