Environmental Impact Assessment Review

Published by Elsevier
Online ISSN: 0195-9255
Publications
Article
A proposed framework which was introduced at the 1989 meetings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science included political constraints as well as population growth as a proximate cause with potentially important impacts on the environment in Paul and Ann Ehrlichs well-known PAT equation. PAT limitations are identified as the 1.2 billion people caught in the debt-poverty trap less developed countries balance of payments deficits and "distortionary factors" that undermined economic incentives and contributed to mismanagement of resources. Such factors could be keeping farm prices low and have an impact on deterring use of environmentally sound traditional agricultural practices. Mismanagement of public lands occurs when large commercial enterprises or large scale mechanization displace population onto marginal or less productive lands. Intergroup warfare is a new form impacting on the environment. In Burma loggers are authorized to clear cut large tracts of teak forests in order to ferret out Karen guerrillas. Over 15 million refugees were thus displaced and forced to live in encampments that require trees for shelter firewood for survival and overgrazing of livestock. Social and economic environments are also undermined by "dependency" factors such as trade protectionism brain drain and limited foreign aid. The Group of 77 Non-Aligned Developing Countries proposed that discussions of the links between population and the environment be omitted from the agenda of the 1994 UN Conference on Population and Development. Basic clarifications are needed to distinguish ultimate versus proximate factors and current versus future concerns. The debate ignores distribution patterns migration or changing age structures. The debate blames unjustifiably rapid population growth as the ultimate cause of global environmental degradation and links population growth to a host of other social problems such as famine and refugees while ignoring civil unrest. The evidence suggests that population limitation will probably prevent environmental degradation in poor resource constrained countries from getting worse. Resource conservation will remain unaffected. The World Bank proposes National Environmental Action Plans or the Cleaver Schreiber proposal for a "nexus strategy" for balancing food supply and population in Africa.
 
Article
Actual and systematic application of environmental assessment in the Autonomous Region of the Aosta Valley (Italy) since 1991 enables to analyse a sizeable number of studies accumulated over a decade of experience and to study their evolution in time. The peculiarity of these studies, something quite rare in Italy, is the fact that they are both standard EIA on individual projects and SEA studies, since they were carried out on urban planning techniques. This research analyses a statistical sample with two groups, initial-wave studies (1991–1992) and more recent ones (1997–1998), by means of characteristic profiles emphasising both content and differences. To better correlate the research and its regional context, we present a brief geoeconomic description and a concise summary of local provisions on the subject of environmental impact evaluation. The results of the analysis, done with innovative multivariate methods for environmental reviewing, are discussed at three progressive levels of conceptual investigation, also to underline the importance of adopting a set-oriented perspective. Having emphasised both limitations and scope of the adopted method, the final conclusions include some suggestions on to improve study management on a regional scale.
 
The three streams of windows of opportunity in strategic transport planning in Merseyside, ROA and Berlin-1997 and 2002. 
Article
The paper evaluates transport policy making and strategic environmental assessment (SEA) practice in the city regions of Liverpool (Merseyside), Amsterdam (Regional Body of Amsterdam, ROA) and Berlin at two points in time; 2002 and 1997. By 2002, all three examined regions had abolished either 1997 policy-SEA practice or the intention to conduct policy-SEA. Furthermore, between 1997 and 2002, the three regions had been moving away from a possible ‘window of opportunity’ to formalise policy-SEA. Finally, transport policies in 2002 were found to be less strategic and more project-oriented than those in 1997.
 
Article
The EU Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC requires impact assessments called Appropriate Assessments (AA) for plans and projects probably having adverse effects on the sites of European ecological importance, Natura 2000 sites. Seventy-three Appropriate Assessment reports and seventy official opinions given on them by regional environmental authorities from 1997 to 2005 were reviewed. The findings of the study demonstrate typical shortcomings of ecological impact assessment: a weak information basis for assessment outcomes and lack of proper cumulative impact assessment with respect to ecological structures and processes. The quality of reporting has improved over time with respect to direct impacts on individual habitat types and species and detailed mitigation measures. Regional environment centres considered one fifth of the AA reports to be inadequate because of lacking data. In most cases the regional environment centres demanded a change of plan or project, added mitigation measures, choice of only one alternative for further planning or a new completed assessment with additional information in order to be able to evaluate the significance of the effects. The study underlines the need for iterative planning practices in which the preparation of a plan or project with alternative options goes hand in hand with the impact assessment equipped with sufficient data.
 
Article
Biodiversity has become one of the central environmental issues in the framework of recent policies and international conventions for the promotion of sustainable development. The reduction of habitat worldwide is currently considered as the main threat to biodiversity conservation. Transportation infrastructures, and above all road networks, are blamed for highly contributing to the decrease in both the quantity and the quality of natural habitat. Therefore, a sound Biodiversity Impact Assessment (BIA) in road planning and development needs to be coupled to other commonly considered aspects. This paper presents an approach to contribute to BIA of road projects that focuses on one type of impact: the direct loss of ecosystems. The first step consists in mapping the different ecosystem types, and in evaluating their relevance for biodiversity conservation. This is based on the assessment of ecosystem's rarity. Rarity is a measure of how frequently an ecosystem type is found within a given area. Its relevance is confirmed by the fact that the protection of rare ecosystems is often considered as the single most important function of biodiversity conservation. Subsequently, the impact of a road project can be quantified by spatially computing the expected losses of each ecosystem type. To illustrate the applicability of the methodology, a case study is presented dealing with the assessment of alternative routes for a highway development in northern Italy.
 
Article
The aim of this study was to evaluate the risk to the aquatic environment of 90 chemicals referenced by a European directive. We applied the SIRIS method (System of Integration of Risk with Interaction of Scores), an original mathematical method first described some years ago. It is a scoring system highly appropriate for the estimation of environmental risk. This method, based on four exposure criteria and four effect criteria, was highly efficient for risk assessment and made it possible to display various groups of chemicals and to classify them. This article describes the principles of the SIRIS method and its value for such a concrete application.
 
Article
Health impact assessment (HIA), a methodology that aims to facilitate the mitigation of negative and enhancement of positive health effects due to projects, programmes and policies, has been developed over the past 20–30 years. There is an underlying assumption that HIA has become a full fledged critical piece of the impact assessment process with a stature equal to both environmental and social impact assessments. This assumption needs to be supported by evidence however. Within the context of projects in developing country settings, HIA is simply a slogan without a clearly articulated and relevant methodology, offered by academia and having little or no salience in the decision-making process regarding impacts. This harsh assertion is supported by posing a simple question: “Where in the world have HIAs been carried out?” To answer this question, we systematically searched the peer-reviewed literature and online HIA-specific databases. We identified 237 HIA-related publications, but only 6% of these publications had a focus on the developing world. What emerges is, therefore, a huge disparity, which we coin the 6/94 gap in HIA, even worse than the widely known 10/90 gap in health research (10% of health research funding is utilized for diseases causing 90% of the global burden of disease). Implications of this 6/94 gap in HIA are discussed with pointed emphasis on extractive industries (oil/gas and mining) and water resources development. We conclude that there is a pressing need to institutionalize HIA in the developing world, as a consequence of current predictions of major extractive industry and water resources development, with China's investments in these sectors across Africa being particularly salient.
 
Article
This article explores the nature of public participation in the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process in the context of the potential integration of the Aarhus Convention principles into the UK EIA system. Although the Convention advocates ‘early’ and ‘effective’ participation, these terms remain undefined and questions persist about exactly how to implement the Aarhus principles. Ten practice evaluation criteria derived from the Aarhus Convention are used to analyse the public participation procedures used in four UK waste disposal EIA case studies. The paper reports the extent to which the practice evaluation criteria were fulfilled, explores the types and effectiveness of the participation methods used in the EIAs, and highlights some of the key barriers that appear to impede the execution of ‘early’ and ‘effective’ participation programmes. It concludes that the Aarhus Convention will undoubtedly lead to a strengthening of participation procedures but that the level of improvement secured will depend upon how its ideals are interpreted and incorporated into legislation and practice.
 
Article
The high elevational areas in the Himalayas of India are dominated by forests and alpine pastures. There are many protected areas in the region, including Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve (NDBR) and Valley of Flowers (VOF) where natural resource management plan (NRMP) has been implemented for the conservation of biodiversity. This has affected the traditional animal husbandry system, as well as the vegetation dynamics of alpine pastures. An integrated approach to studying the impact of NRMP in the region has been applied by us. First, a survey was conducted regarding livestock management, data pertaining the livestock husbandry, the role of animal husbandry in economics of rural household, and socioeconomics. Second, field based study on phytosociology of some important alpine herbs was done to enumerate the density and species richness in different land mark of the region. Thereafter, satellite data and Geographic Information System (GIS) were used to develop a land cover map of the area and to note changes in the landscape over time after implementation of NRMP. From an economic point of view the implementation of such plan is a setback to the rural economy. However, the ecological perspective of such models is a threat to the diversity of alpine pastures. The invasion of bushes/thorny bushes/shrubs and weeds with their luxuriant growth is changing the vegetation index and dynamics. Consequently, the diversity of herbs in alpine pastures of the Himalayan Mountains is in jeopardy. Overall, the situation is leading to landscape change in the region. This study is helpful for generating useful outcomes and strategies considering the question or debate “is grazing good or bad for pasture ecosystems in the Himalayas?”.
 
Article
Over the past two decades, increasing attention has been devoted to the concept of cumulative environmental effects. Cumulative effects are the additive and interactive impacts that may result from human activities that are repeated over time and space. In many cases, numerous small, independent actions considered to be individually insignificant can eventually lead to substantial and sometimes irreversible changes in the environment. Public awareness of such impacts is often minimal, until such time as a critical point or threshold is exceeded. By this time the environmental and social consequences may be considerable. Habitat loss and fragmentation, climate modification, soil loss, declines in water quantity and quality, and pesticide accumulation are just a few of the areas in which cumulative effects have become a major concern. Recently proclaimed Canadian environmental assessment laws impose new requirements to identify and address cumulative effects. So far, however, considerable uncertainty exists as to how these statutory requirements will or should be carried out. This uncertainty is compounded by the constitutional requirement to recognize and protect various traditional aboriginal rights. The Canadian Constitution recently has been interpreted to protect the right of aboriginal people to engage in traditional sustenance-oriented hunting, fishing, trapping, and gathering activities. Moreover, following a landmark decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in late 1997, aboriginal people are now entitled to assert rights of exclusive use and occupation to land under the emerging legal concept of aboriginal title. The struggle by aboriginal peoples for legal recognition of these rights has been long and difficult. A growing number of aboriginal communities have voiced concerns that these newly recognized rights are being threatened by the cumulative environmental effects of resource development and human settlement. Paradoxically, just as the quest for traditional rights recognition is coming to fruition, the ability of aboriginal peoples to exercise these rights appears to be eroding. The purpose of this article is to examine how the concept of cumulative effects, together with the legal imperative to protect traditional aboriginal rights, can and must transform environmental decision-making. It is in four parts. Part I explores the meaning and policy implications of the concept of cumulative environmental impacts. Part II is an introduction to the legal and historical basis for aboriginal rights. Part III seeks to illustrate the challenges, and the necessity, of reforming environmental decision-making by use of a case-study involving a controversy over logging in traditional aboriginal territory. In Part IV we offer some concluding observations in the implications of our analysis for environmental assessment and decision-making.
 
Article
During the last decade a number of environmental agreements (EAs) have been negotiated in Canada involving industry, government and Aboriginal peoples. This article draws on the Canadian experience to consider the potential of such negotiated agreements to address two issues widely recognised in academic and policy debates on environmental impact assessment (EIA) and environmental management. The first relates to the need to secure indigenous participation in environmental management of major projects that affect indigenous peoples. The second and broader issue involves the necessity for specific initiatives to ensure effective follow-up of EIA. The Canadian experience indicates that negotiated environmental agreements have considerable potential to address both issues. However, if this potential is to be realized, greater effort must be made to develop structures and processes specifically designed to encourage Aboriginal participation; and EAs must themselves provide the financial and other resource required to support EIA follow-up and Aboriginal participation.
 
Article
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) went into effect in the United States on January 1, 1970, just over 25 years ago. In light of this milestone, a survey of academics on the effectiveness of NEPA has been conducted regarding the preparation of environmental assessments (EAs) or environmental impact statements (EISs). This paper summarizes the results of a survey of 31 academics in 12 disciplines from 21 states; the majority of which have over 20 years of experience in teaching, research and/or practice of the NEPA process. Several strengths of NEPA were identified, most importantly that NEPA encourages agencies and decision makers: (1) to acknowledge potential environmental consequences to the public, thus opening up the decision process; and (2) to think about environmental consequences before resources are committed. Surveyed participants also prioritized needs for improvement; the five most important were: (1) post-EIS follow-up in monitoring, implementation of mitigation measures, ecosystem management, and environmental auditing; (2) methodological approaches for addressing cumulative impacts and reductions in institutional barriers to analysis of cumulative impacts; (3) training of federal personnel implementing NEPA; (4) earlier considerations of NEPA in project planning and decision making; and (5) the integrated consideration of biophysical and social/economic sciences, along with risk assessment, in NEPA. While this survey was focused on the NEPA process in the United States, the identified issues have implications for the worldwide practice of environmental impact assessment. Finally, recommendations are described that are primarily associated with guidance, possible modifications in the NEPA process and follow-on training.
 
The Waste Management hierarchy. 
Tables and figure
Article
The construction of new infrastructure is hotly contested. This paper presents a comparative study on three environmental policy domains in the Netherlands that all deal with legitimising building and locating infrastructure facilities. Such infrastructure is usually declared essential to environmental policy and claimed to serve sustainability goals. They are considered to serve (proclaimed) public interests, while the adverse impact or risk that mainly concerns environmental values as well is concentrated at a smaller scale, for example in local communities. The social acceptance of environmental policy infrastructure is institutionally determined. The institutional capacity for learning in infrastructure decision-making processes in the following three domains is compared:
 
Article
Impact assessment professionals have traditionally written documents for themselves. Often, their work appears to be received with indifference by business professionals and decision makers who have different needs and interests. The two groups conflict when they should be thinking and planning together at the “big picture” level (including the understanding of the social factors at work in environmental impact assessment) and developing related and workable “site-specific” implementation that characterizes socially acceptable decision making.
 
Article
Presently, Nigeria is one of the fastest growing Telecom markets in the world. The country's teledensity increased from a mere 0.4 in 1999 to 10 in 2005 following the liberalization of the Telecom sector in 2001. More than 25 million new digital mobile lines have been connected by June 2006. Large quantities of mobile phones and accessories including secondhand and remanufactured products are being imported to meet the pent-up demand. This improvement in mobile telecom services resulted in the preference of mobile telecom services to fixed lines. Consequently, the contribution of fixed lines decreased from about 95% in year 2000 to less than 10% in March 2005. This phenomenal progress in information technology has resulted in the generation of large quantities of electronic waste (e-waste) in the country. Abandoned fixed line telephone sets estimated at 120,000 units are either disposed or stockpiled. Increasing quantities of waste mobile phones estimated at 8 million units by 2007, and accessories will be generated. With no material recovery facility for e-waste and/or appropriate solid waste management infrastructure in place, these waste materials end up in open dumps and unlined landfills. These practices create the potential for the release of toxic metals and halocarbons from batteries, printed wiring boards, liquid crystal display and plastic housing units. This paper presents an overview of the developments in the Nigerian Telecom sector, the material in-flow of mobile phones, and the implications of the management practices for wastes from the Telecom sector in the country.
 
Article
Although administrative procedures dealing with direct human health risks arising from a nuclear accident are in place in Canada, little thought has apparently been given to the administration of disaster policies when agricultural land would be affected. Evidence now emerging from Europe in the wake of Chernobyl suggests that major costs can arise from the disruption of agricultural production. The design and administration of the disaster policy can significantly affect the short-term costs associated with such a nuclear accident as well as the long-term productivity of the agricultural resource base. A specific case from the British Chernobyl experience is presented by way of example. Given the large amounts of data now becoming available from Europe, formal Canadian planning should be undertaken. As ultimate responsibility for compensation lies with the federal government, formal planning could provide for considerable savings to Canadian taxpayers in the event of a nuclear accident.
 
Article
Business reviews of the forest industry in British Colombia, Canada, typically portray an unequivocally positive picture of its financial and economic health. In doing so, they fail to consider the following six categories of social impacts and costs: (1) direct and indirect subsidies; (2) government support through investment; (3) community dependence; (4) the maintenance of public order; (5) aboriginal title; and (6) the overestimation of employment. Our findings show that conventional economic and financial accounting methods inflate the industry's net contribution to the economy. We make a number of recommendations to address this shortcoming to improve future accounting and reporting procedures.
 
Article
Integrated — economic, environmental, and social — assessment tools can provide a clear indication of both the positive and the negative impacts of trade liberalisation from which effective policies to reduce the negative impacts and strengthen the positive ones can be developed. Assessments feeding into the policy development process can promote increased integration of environmental and social considerations into macroeconomic policies and decision-making, leading to a more sustainable use of resources and increased social welfare. Although assessment tools are available, there is a need to encourage their greater adoption and use, as well as to develop and apply improved country- and sector-specific tools. This paper reviews the opportunities and challenges of promoting wider application of assessment tools and of international adoption of more proactive policies to support sustainable development.
 
Article
The siting of hazardous waste facilities is complex, controversial, time-consuming, expensive, and sometimes impossible. Pressures for and against these facilities are immense. California is developing the “Tanner process,” a one-stop concept in which a single agency serves as the focal point (lead agency) for all the state institutions involved. In this paper I review the experience gained to date with the proposal for the largest liquid toxic waste incinerator proposed for California. I present positive and negative aspects of the process, and draw some policy conclusions. I explore a key policy goal: the search for win/win solutions such that both the community and industry come out ahead environmentally and economically. The experience, especially the approach to negotiation/discussion, is a model for possible use elsewhere in California and the nation.
 
Article
“Environmental justice” refers to the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws. Fair treatment means that minority and low-income groups should not bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental impacts of government actions. Recent studies have shown that, in the United States, some government decisions have adversely affected low-income and minority communities disproportionately to the rest of society. To avoid such inequities in future federal activities, President Clinton issued Executive Order (EO) 12898, which requires federal agencies to consider environmental justice in carrying out their missions. Guidance issued by the Executive Office of the President requires every federal agency to consider environmental justice in conducting impact evaluations under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Thus, an “environmental justice analysis” is a highly focused form of social impact assessment that must be conducted within the framework of NEPA. The specific purpose of such an analysis is to determine whether a proposed federal activity would impact low-income and minority populations to a greater extent than it would impact a community's general population. This article explains the development and implementation of EO 12898 and explores what federal agencies are doing to incorporate environmental justice into their NEPA procedures. It also includes recommendations for other authorities to consider when incorporating environmental justice into their environmental impact assessments (EIAs).
 
Article
There is a fundamental assertion by indigenous communities, which is now beginning to be recognized globally, that “we belong to the land.” The position of indigenous people, both locally and globally, as traditional knowledge holders and legal entities with rights and title to lands is challenging the authority of nation states in the development and management of lands and resources. International bodies, such as the United Nations and World Bank, continually place emphasis on bridging the implementation gap between the inclusion and exclusion of indigenous communities in public policy. However, increasing tensions exhibited between indigenous nations and nation states continue to surface. Much needs to be written about the shortsightedness of state governments that continue to ignore indigenous rights and title and the perils that await them. This paper will focus on a small part of this larger question, examining the emerging struggle of legal recognition of indigenous title, rights and cosmologies into the Canadian body politics as it relates to environmental policy. In addition to broad policy implications associated with the acceptance of indigenous people's knowledge, there are also ethical issues of “integrating” traditional knowledge as well as practical problems with “implementing” traditional environmental knowledge (TEK) into legal and regulatory environmental regimes, practices and policies. A significant new way to examine these questions is to examine them through an Aboriginal resource planning approach. This approach will be formalized in relations to current activity in British Columbia, Canada, where Aboriginal communities and two levels of Canadian government are negotiating a balance between indigenous and state aspirations to find complimentary and sustainable mechanisms for environmental assessments.
 
Versions of No-Action Alternative Identified and Analyzed
Article
The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations (40 CFR 1500–1508) for implementing the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) do not define the “no-action alternative,” stating only that NEPA analyses shall “include the alternative of no action” (40 CFR 1502.14). The definition of the no-action alternative for newly proposed actions seems clear (i.e., the agency will not implement the proposed action or alternative actions). However, for continuing actions, the meaning of the no-action alternative is ambiguous (i.e., continue the activity without modification or discontinue the activity). This article examines the overall function of the no-action alternative for NEPA analyses of continuing actions. It begins with a discussion of the conflicting definitions of the no-action alternative for continuing activities, including CEQ regulations and guidelines related to the no-action alternative and legal decisions that have helped establish precedence for defining no action. A review of NEPA regulations and guidelines of 10 federal agencies shows how different agencies define no-action for continuing actions. Review of six recent NEPA documents on continuing actions reveals how their definitions of the no-action alternative promote or impede informed decision-making. This paper argues that for environmental analyses of continuing actions, both continue-the-activity-without-modification (continue) and discontinue-the-ongoing-activity (discontinue) versions of the no-action alternative should be analyzed. In addition, the article shows that there is a significant potential for distortion of the impact assessment results if historical information is used as a substitute for analysis of the no-action alternative.
 
Article
Over the last 10 years, strategic environmental assessment (SEA) has become an important policy instrument for national governments, particularly in Europe. Many of the countries that have experimented with SEA at the national level have begun to extend its use to bilateral development cooperation. Despite these innovations, SEA has yet to gain a serious foothold in the work of multi-lateral development banks (MDBs), although significant advances have been made by the World Bank. In a number of ways, the activities of MDBs are ideally suited to SEA. Unlike most national governments where responsibility for policies, plans, and programs (PPPs) is divided among departments and jurisdictions, MDBs tend to have more control over the different levels of the PPP hierarchy. This means that one of the core focuses of SEA, the notion of “tiering,” is perhaps more readily achieved in MDBs than elsewhere. As a consequence, there are genuine efficiency gains to be had, along with potential improvements in environmental outcomes in recipient countries. This paper presents an outline of a generic, comprehensive SEA system that could be applied to the lending and granting activities of MDBs. The main focus of the paper is the design of a linkage between SEA and the programming cycle of MDBs, where decisions are made about investments in recipient countries.
 
Article
Attributing costs to the environmental impacts associated with industrial activities can greatly assist in protecting human health and the natural environment as monetary values are capable of directly influencing technological and policy decisions without changing the rules of the market. This paper attempts to estimate the external cost attributable to the atmospheric pollution from ‘medium and high environmental burden’ industrial activities located in the greater Athens area and the benefits from Best Available Techniques (BAT) introduction. To this end a number of typical installations were defined to be used in conjunction with the Impact Pathway Approach developed in the context of the ExternE project to model all industrial sectors/sub-sectors located in the area of interest. Total environmental externalities due to air pollutants emitted by these industrial activities were found to reach 211 M€ per year, associated mainly with human mortality and morbidity due to PM10 emissions, as well as with climate change impacts due to CO2 emissions for which non-metallic minerals and oil processing industries are the main sources. The results obtained can be used as the basis for an integrated evaluation of potential BAT, taking into account not only private costs and benefits but also the environmental externalities, thus leading to policy decisions that maximize social welfare in each industrial sector/sub-sector.
 
Article
Farmers have been increasingly called upon to respond to an ongoing redefinition in consumers' demands, having as a converging theme the search for sustainable production practices. In order to satisfy this objective, instruments for the environmental management of agricultural activities have been sought out. Environmental impact assessment methods are appropriate tools to address the choice of technologies and management practices to minimize negative effects of agricultural development, while maximizing productive efficiency, sound usage of natural resources, conservation of ecological assets and equitable access to wealth generation means. The ‘system for weighted environmental impact assessment of rural activities’ (APOIA-NovoRural) presented in this paper is organized to provide integrated farm sustainability assessment according to quantitative environmental standards and defined socio-economic benchmarks. The system integrates sixty-two objective indicators in five sustainability dimensions — (i) Landscape ecology, (ii) Environmental quality (atmosphere, water and soil), (iii) Sociocultural values, (iv) Economic values, and (v) Management and administration. Impact indices are expressed in three integration levels: (i) specific indicators, that offer a diagnostic and managerial tool for farmers and rural administrators, by pointing out particular attributes of the rural activities that may be failing to comply with defined environmental performance objectives; (ii) integrated sustainability dimensions, that show decision-makers the major contributions of the rural activities toward local sustainable development, facilitating the definition of control actions and promotion measures; and (iii) aggregated sustainability index, that can be considered a yardstick for eco-certification purposes. Nine fully documented case studies carried out with the APOIA-NovoRural system, focusing on different scales, diverse rural activities/farming systems, and contrasting spatial/territorial contexts, attest to the malleability of the method and its applicability as an integrated farm environmental management tool.
 
Article
To be effective, environmental policies must be informed by reliable assessments of the impact of economic activities. In turn, such impact assessments require comprehensive information on the pollution profiles of particular activities. In most countries and for many activities, such an information base does not exist. This article contributes to the environmental impact assessment process by introducing a method for filling part of the information gap with respect to industrial activities. It presents a pollution-estimation model that draws from published sources of information and allows analysts to obtain order-of-magnitude estimates of the pollution generated by an industrial activity. As an illustration, the model is applied to estimate the air emissions of a petroleum refinery under two different operating scenarios. Thus, it provides its potential users—policy-makers operating in a context of information scarcity—with a means to review the operation and pollution-generation characteristics of any industry in a comprehensive and rigorous manner.
 
Article
Nine non-local databases were evaluated with respect to their suitability for the environmental assessment of industrial activities in Latin America. Three assessment methods were considered, namely Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and air emission inventories. The analysis focused on data availability in the databases and the applicability of their international data to Latin American industry. The study showed that the European EMEP/EEA Guidebook and the U.S. EPA AP-42 database are the most suitable ones for air emission inventories, whereas the LCI database Ecoinvent is the most suitable one for LCA and EIA. Due to the data coverage in the databases, air emission inventories are easier to develop than LCA or EIA, which require more comprehensive information. One strategy to overcome the limitations of non-local databases for Latin American industry is the combination of validated data from international databases with newly developed local datasets.
 
Article
Impact assessment frameworks are gaining increasing attention as a procedure to integrate sustainability concerns in European and national policy-making. The gap between political visions on sustainable development and the reality of policy-making is, however, still pronounced, and a very limited range and scope of available assessment methods are used in practice. This study examines why this pattern prevails, in this case within the Swedish Committees of Inquiry, with a focus on institutional factors determining the function of Impact Assessments. The findings suggest that assessment procedures have little value when not accompanied by clear specific instructions on priorities. A range of institutional constraints emerge in the interface between policy makers and knowledge providers in committees. Dominant professional, organisational, and disciplinary cultures constrain the assessment, and socio-economic priorities are by tradition most important. Based on our analysis, we conclude that to enhance the potential for integrating sustainability concerns, it seems less fruitful to develop more advanced and complex assessment frameworks and models than strengthening institutional arenas for social learning. Such arenas should be; defined by a broad mandate and instructions, characterised by key personal skills and resources, and build institutional capacity for a range of stakeholders to engage with them.
 
Article
The paper addresses major difficulties in current EIA by pointing out the potential of adaptive management. Several researchers have already suggested this approach, and they stress limitations in our abilities to predict and develop mitigative strategies for complex, dynamic environmental systems. Adaptive EIA adjusts for the unexpected impacts of human activities on the environment. The adaptive approach reflects a conclusion that EIA strategies should be facilitated through an approach that allows adjustments to changing events, decisions, and circumstances and that can modify implementation and mitigative strategies as new knowledge is gained.
 
Article
Debate across the impact assessment community has been significantly influenced by the emergence of Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) in the past few years. Although there are still difficulties regarding the understanding of its nature and technicalities, the need for it was acknowledged, and practice is taking place in diverse forms. Such diversity of approaches to SEA, while enriching debate, are critically confusing the relationship of SEA with other planning and impact assessment tools. In this paper it is argued that the value of SEA is a function of the extent it influences, and adds value, to decision making. Following that rationale, the paper suggests that SEA should be conceptualized as a framework, defined by core elements, that are incrementally integrated into policy and planning procedures and practices, whatever decision-making system in place. It is believed that in this way SEA may better satisfy one of its acknowledged aims and benefits, which is to help achieve sustainable development by changing the way decisions are made.
 
Article
Assessing the significance of environmental impacts is one of the most important and all together difficult processes of Environmental Impact Assessment. This is largely due to the multicriteria nature of the problem. To date, decision techniques used in the process suffer from two drawbacks, namely the problem of compensation and the problem of identification of the “exact boundary” between sub-ranges. This article discusses these issues and proposes a methodology for determining the significance of environmental impacts based on comparative and sensitivity analyses using the Electre TRI technique.An application of the methodology for the environmental assessment of a Power Plant project within the Valencian Region (Spain) is presented, and its performance evaluated. It is concluded that contrary to other techniques, Electre TRI automatically identifies those cases where allocation of significance categories is most difficult and, when combined with sensitivity analysis, offers greatest robustness in the face of variation in weights of the significance attributes. Likewise, this research demonstrates the efficacy of systematic comparison between Electre TRI and sum-based techniques, in the solution of assignment problems. The proposed methodology can therefore be regarded as a successful aid to the decision-maker, who will ultimately take the final decision.
 
Article
Life cycle assessment (LCA) is frequently used as a tool for environmental assessment of buildings and building products. Generally, the main focus of LCA is the impact on the regional and global external environment. However, there are important environmental problems related to buildings that arise locally in connection with the indoor environment, such as effects on human health. The approaches of LCA, measurements of emissions from building materials, and indoor climate assessment were studied to see how they relate to each other from a methodological point of view, using volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions as an example. The possibility of including indoor climate issues as an impact category in LCA of building products was investigated. Only very limited aspects of the indoor climate could be addressed in LCA; thus, indoor climate issues are preferably dealt with separately.
 
Article
Environmental assessments (EAs) refer to preliminary studies conducted within the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process in the United States; such studies are used to determine the significance of anticipated impacts of proposed actions. If significant impacts are identified, detailed studies leading to the preparation of environmental impact statements (EISs) are necessary. If no significant impacts are expected, findings of no significant impacts (FONSIs) are prepared and the EIA process is completed. Cumulative impacts (CIs) should be considered, along with direct and indirect impacts, in the significance determination documented within an EA. However, CIs may not receive detailed attention due to either the absence of specific requirements or uncertainty as to what to address. This study included a systematic review of CI considerations in 30 EAs prepared on a variety of project types in the United States. In general, it was determined that CIs are neither normally mentioned nor thoroughly addressed; in fact, only 14 EAs even mentioned the term. When CIs were mentioned, they were typically addressed in a qualitative manner without clear delineations of spatial and temporal study boundaries and utilized guidelines or methodologies. Therefore, if EAs are to continue to be decision documents for determining if EISs need to be prepared, significance determinations for CIs must be more systematically addressed and documented. Such documentation could refer to the consideration of CIs and the determination that they are not significant; in contrast; for some EAs the topic of CIs may be the determining issue in decisions to prepare EISs.
 
Article
In Australasia (Australia and New Zealand) the use of health impact assessment (HIA) as a tool for improved policy development is comparatively new. The public health workforce do not routinely assess the potential health and equity impacts of proposed policies or programs. The Australasian Collaboration for Health Equity Impact Assessment was funded to develop a strategic framework for equity-focused HIA (EFHIA) with the intent of strengthening the ways in which equity is addressed in each step of HIA. The collaboration developed a draft framework for EFHIA that mirrored, but modified the commonly accepted steps of HIA; tested the draft framework in six different health service delivery settings; analysed the feedback about application of the draft EFHIA framework and modified it accordingly. The strategic framework shows promise in providing a systematic process for identifying potential differential health impacts and assessing the extent to which these are avoidable and unfair. This paper presents the EFHIA framework and discusses some of the issues that arose in the case study sites undertaking equity-focused HIA.
 
Article
Economic losses caused by tropical cyclones have increased dramatically. Historical changes in losses are a result of meteorological factors (changes in the incidence of severe cyclones, whether due to natural climate variability or as a result of human activity) and socio-economic factors (increased prosperity and a greater tendency for people to settle in exposed areas). This paper aims to isolate the socio-economic effects and ascertain the potential impact of climate change on this trend. Storm losses for the period 1950–2005 have been adjusted to the value of capital stock in 2005 so that any remaining trend cannot be ascribed to socio-economic developments. For this, we introduce a new approach to adjusting losses based on the change in capital stock at risk. Storm losses are mainly determined by the intensity of the storm and the material assets, such as property and infrastructure, located in the region affected. We therefore adjust the losses to exclude increases in the capital stock of the affected region. No trend is found for the period 1950–2005 as a whole. In the period 1971–2005, since the beginning of a trend towards increased intense cyclone activity, losses excluding socio-economic effects show an annual increase of 4% per annum. This increase must therefore be at least due to the impact of natural climate variability but, more likely than not, also due to anthropogenic forcings.
 
Article
There is a widespread belief that a dichotomy exists between northern and southern European countries with respect to environmental policy leadership. This paper attempts to analyse some of the factors which underlie the so-called Mediterranean syndrome in environmental policy and legislation in the light of two case studies on the application of European EIA directives in Portugal. The paper shows that changes are taking place in Portuguese society, affecting civic culture, and, as a result, political–administrative practice, which are modifying the conditions under which EIA directives are applied. These changes led to legislative and institutional developments which, in some instances, have gone beyond existing European legislation. It can, therefore, be argued that contrary to the prevailing argument about the dichotomy between leaders and laggards, at the end of the day, the latter are also becoming pioneers in legal–institutional innovation in this field. This article purports to analyse these developments and the lessons that may possibly be drawn from them with a view to improving EIA procedures in southern European countries from the standpoint of both their scientific and technical grounds and their democratic legitimacy.
 
Article
Like any policy-relevant research, HIA faces the risk of not being used by decisions-makers. This article addresses the questions: “How do policy decisions come about?” and “How does this affect HIA?” Current literature in political-administrative sciences identifies three ways for decision-making: rational, incremental and mixed model. These models define the relationship between the policy process at stake and the HIA. In incremental or mixed model decision-making, use of HIA evidence by policy-makers is heavily dependent on their values in the context, which may result in conceptual utilization or may extend to strategic utilization. In rational decision-making, HIA provides information independent from the context, which results in instrumental utilization. HIA practitioners need to optimise utilization and produce an appropriate HIA by mapping the policy process. They can do this by asking the questions ‘What? How? Who? and What context? and by maintaining continuous communication with the decision-makers. An appropriate HIA is policy-, time- and place-specific: reflecting the decision-making of the policy at stake. Furthermore, HIA concerns two policy fields with two different contexts and, in some cases, two different decision-making models. The administrative requirements for an appropriate HIA need further exploration.
 
Article
Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) seeks to better integrate environmental considerations into the preparation and decision-making process of plans and programmes with a view to promoting sustainable development. Further to application of the European Directive 2001/42/EC (SEA Directive) in 2004, the body of practical SEA experience, and parallel research, has increased steadily. Yet there is a crucial element of SEA which cannot build on much experience but whose importance will grow over time — namely that of SEA monitoring.The paper explores the application of SEA monitoring for English Regional Spatial Strategies (RSSs). It briefly introduces the role of SEA monitoring and its legal requirements, the English approach of integrating SEA into Sustainability Appraisal (SA) and the nature of the current English Regional Planning context. The main part presents the research findings and discusses how practitioners cope with the challenges of SEA/SA monitoring — with guiding questions: why, what, who, how, when, and with what outcomes? Reflecting that monitoring is just about to start, the paper draws on measures envisaged for monitoring in the SA reports prepared for RSS, and on expert interviews. It identifies monitoring trends and highlights workable approaches as well as shortcomings. For a critical reflection the findings are mirrored briefly with SEA monitoring approaches of German Regional Plans. Although it is still early days for such monitoring, the findings indicate that there is a danger that some of the specific requirements and objectives of SEA/SA monitoring are not fully met, mainly due to insufficient databases, inappropriate institutional conditions and limited personnel and financial resources. Some recommendations are offered in conclusion.
 
Article
Even though most national governments and international donor agencies accept social impact assessment (SIA) as necessary, it is often partially, rather than fully, applied to development projects. Its adoption for planning and decision making is problematic, because some of its basic assumptions can contradict sociocultutural and political traditions. A principle of modern SIA is that publics potentially affected by development should participate in assessing consequences. Because SIA models are heavily influenced by Western social liberal traditions about public participation, for instance, they are sometimes incompatible with the established social and political institutions of Third World countries. Bureaucratic rigidity and disciplinary inertia are two potential barriers to adoption of SIA. Rancorous conflict, extreme poverty, and ignorance are also factors affecting how SIA is used. Barriers to using impact assessment techniques are being overcome by attempts to integrate SIA with the general planning process. SIA therefore assumes a positive role in development planning—to be integrated with economic and natural environment considerations.
 
Article
In the developing world, large-scale projects in the extractive industry and natural resources sectors are often controversial and associated with long-term adverse health consequences to local communities. In many industrialised countries, health impact assessment (HIA) has been institutionalized for the mitigation of anticipated negative health effects while enhancing the benefits of projects, programmes and policies. However, in developing country settings, relatively few HIAs have been performed. Hence, more HIAs with a focus on low- and middle-income countries are needed to advance and refine tools and methods for impact assessment and subsequent mitigation measures. We present a promising HIA approach, developed within the frame of a large gold-mining project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The articulation of environmental health areas, the spatial delineation of potentially affected communities and the use of a diversity of sources to obtain quality baseline health data are utilized for risk profiling. We demonstrate how these tools and data are fed into a risk analysis matrix, which facilitates ranking of potential health impacts for subsequent prioritization of mitigation strategies. The outcomes encapsulate a multitude of environmental and health determinants in a systematic manner, and will assist decision-makers in the development of mitigation measures that minimize potential adverse health effects and enhance positive ones.
 
Article
This paper develops a methodology to analyse, measure and evaluate sustainable development (SD). A holistic approach (systems analysis) is applied to operationalise the SD concept and an integrated approach (composite indicator construction) is adopted for the measurement of SD. The operationalisation of the SD concept is based on an in-depth systems analysis of issues associated with economic, social and environmental problems in a policy context. The composite indicator (overall sustainability index) is developed based on the three composite sub-indicators of the SD dimensions. The valuation of the SD is based both on the aggregated sub-indicators and the overall composite indicator. The methodology is used to evaluate the SD of the North Aegean islands between different temporal points. The assessment of the change in the islands' SD is based on a quartile grading scale of the overall SD composite scores.
 
Article
This paper evaluates the influence of geographical scale on the outcomes of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs). The paper presents results obtained by using spatial data with different scales for an EIA for a proposed road bypass in Southeast England (the Hastings Bypass). Scale effects were measured separately for spatial extent and spatial detail, and were measured both quantitatively using a Geographical Information System (GIS) and qualitatively using the judgement of EIA experts. The study found that changes in scale could affect the results of EIAs. For example, the impact significance and the number of houses affected by air pollution from the road varied according to the scale used. These observed scale-dependent changes suggest that scale choice can have important repercussions for the accuracy of an EIA study. This situation is made more serious when it is recognized that many environmental impact statements (EIS) fail to mention in explicit terms the scale used. The paper concludes with recommendations for future practice on how best to control the quality of EIAs in relation to scale choice.
 
Article
In 1989, the Council for the Environment, an advisory committee to the Minister of Environment Affairs, published a document outlining an environmental evaluation procedure appropriate to South Africa's circumstances. This procedure, termed integrated environmental management (IEM), is designed to ensure that the environmental impacts and implications of proposals (including policies, programs, plans, and projects) are investigated and adequately considered in the planning and decision-making process. This article provides an historical perspective on the events that contributed to the development of IEM, as well as some insights into the socioeconomic and political factors that influenced the form of evaluation eventually recommended for South Africa. A description and appraisal of the IEM procedure is then presented.
 
Article
This paper presents the results of research which evaluated the performance of strategic environmental assessment (SEA) practice in South Africa in order to develop understanding of how SEA functions within a developing country with a voluntary SEA system. The research applied a combination of methods in a mixed research strategy, including a macro level survey of the SEA system together with case study reviews exploring micro level application. Three main ‘system features’ emerged, namely expansion of voluntary practice, diversity in practice and general ineffectiveness. The results also highlight a number of ‘application features’ such as a lack of focus due to an inability to deal with the concepts of ‘sustainability’ and ‘significance’, as well as poor understanding and integration with decision-making processes. Moreover, it emerged that none of the case studies seem to have conducted an ‘assessment’ per se, but rather provided a framework for strategic decision-making. The paper puts forward a number of interrelated explanations for these system and application features. In a parallel to the fable of the ‘emperor's new clothes’, SEA in South Africa appears to be regarded as the answer to all environmental problems, whilst being ineffective in practice.
 
Article
This article examines the issue of environmental conflict resolution through the use of environmental impact assessments (EIA). The article draws parallels between the elements of good governance—information, transparency, accountability, responsibility, and participation—and their application within EIA to resolve potential or existing conflicts. The article notes that the political, economic, and social context in Eastern and Southern Africa must nonetheless be understood and assessed in successfully applying EIA. Citing examples from Eastern and Southern Africa, the article explores ways that EIA could be used more effectively in the African context, and highlights some of the current bottlenecks to more effective environmental conflict resolution, such as weak transnational mechanisms to resolve conflict, corruption, and obstacles in expanding greater stakeholder participation.
 
Article
Africa can benefit from the experience of other areas in implementing environmental impact assessments (EIAs), but African countries face a greater challenge in achieving this goal due to such problems as inadequate environmental legislation; inappropriate institutional framework for coordinating and monitoring government activities; a shortage of qualified manpower, inadequate financial resources; absence of public awareness of the need for EIAs; and lack of suitable screening procedures to determine which development projects require an EIA. Despite these difficulties, African countries can realize short- and long-term benefits from the incorporation of the EIA into their decision-making process.
 
Article
Potential damage from animal diseases, especially epizootics such as foot-and-mouth disease, hog cholera, and African swine fever, are great, but largely unknown. The recent example of Taiwan's pork industry suffering a major, and likely permanent, setback with the discovery of FMD brings home the importance of the issue. The last major hog disease to be an ongoing problem in the United States was hog cholera, a disease responsible for killing an estimated 7.5% of the US national herd annually. Now, mostly because of the General Agreement of Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the expected increase in trade that it will bring, especially in agricultural goods, there have been renewed calls for economic analysis of consequences of an animal disease outbreak. In this paper we use a flexible and simple technique to assess the likely damage from an outbreak of African swine fever, a potentially devasting disease, in the United States and the benefits of its prevention by the Swine Health Program. The paper combines economic and biological models to assess the social costs and benefits of disease prevention. A dynamic simulation model of the hog and pork sector accounts for producer decision-making and assesses the costs, while epidemiological spread is incorporated using a state-transition matrix. Five outbreak scenarios and their associated probabilities of occurrence are used to aggregate a range of possible outcomes. Results indicate that the benefit cost ratio for the current prevention program is high, over 450. The net benefit of prevention efforts was estimated to be almost $4,500 million at a cost of $10 million for the 10-year period considered. The model framework developed allows the estimates to be revised by hand or with a spreadsheet, given new probability estimates on the likelihood and size of outbreaks. Slight modifications would allow the analysis of other hog diseases such as hog cholera. Impacts of diseases that affect other species or multiple species, such as FMD, would require a new or more complex live-stock model.
 
Article
SEA has been described as being more about process than about product. Yet very little research has been conducted to gain a better understanding of how SEA processes perform within developing country contexts. To address this gap in knowledge the research underlying this paper aimed to evaluate the quality of SEA processes within the South African context against specifically designed key performance indicators. Comparison of the different data patterns revealed general SEA process features as well as three broad models, namely the ‘stand alone’, ‘central to decision making’ and ‘integrated’ models. The research results suggest a particularly poor performance in terms of process quality for the SEA case studies investigated. Moreover, it shows that there is no one understanding of SEA process within the South African context. The main limitations related to a weak understanding of the decision making processes SEA aimed to inform, as well as an inability to incorporate flexibility into process design. To take the debate forward it is proposed that SEA follow-up and effectiveness research be explored to determine which of these models (if any) ultimately contributed to influencing decision making and promote sustainability.
 
Article
Aid agencies, like commercial businesses, are increasingly concerned with incorporating sound environmental management into their operations. Different approaches are being used to integrate sustainability into development assistance to ensure that environmental impacts are assessed and managed. One approach being used by AusAID, the Australian aid agency, is to implement an environmental management system (EMS) across program and project areas. This paper examines how AusAID has adapted the EMS approach to suit aid agency operations, and some of the lessons from the Australian experience.
 
Article
The way in which Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) succeeds in its key aim – to integrate the environment into strategic decision-making – is affected by the choice of both data and scale. The data and scale used within SEA fundamentally shape the process. However, in the past, these issues were often not discussed in an explicit or in-depth way. This article proposes a research agenda, and recommendations for future practice, on data and scale issues in SEA. Future research on data issues, spatial and temporal scales (both in terms of detail and extent), tiering, data quality and links to decision-making are recommended. The article concludes that questions of data and scale in SEA are not just technical, they are essential to identifying and understanding the issues that SEA should be addressing, and therefore are a core element of SEA.
 
Top-cited authors
Angus Morrison-Saunders
  • Edith Cowan University
Deepali Sinha Khetriwal
  • United Nations University (UNU)
Thomas B. Fischer
  • University of Liverpool
Heinz Böni
  • Empa - Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology
Max Schnellmann
  • State Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO