Environmental assessment is a procedure, ensuring the incorporation of environmental, and where required, social and economic information in sound and well-balanced decision making.
Environmental assessment process
The environmental assessment process involves:
- analysing the likely effects and impact of the decisions;
- organising public participation;
- developing and comparing alternatives;
- incorporating the impact, alternatives and comments from the general public in a report;
- taking the report into account when making the final decision;
- informing the public about that decision.
Important aspects concerning the process are:
- the quality of information: is the information relevant for decision making?
- the relevance for decision making: can the process still influence decision making?
- the transparency of the process: is it clear who will be taking the decisions and when?
- stakeholder participation: is the general public indeed consulted and if so, have they been informed at the right moment about the plans and process?
ESIA & SEA
Environmental assessment can be undertaken at two levels:
- For individual projects where it concerns for instance a dam, motorway, airport or factory , it is called Environmental Social Impact Assessment (ESIA).
- For plans, programmes or policies such as for instance a land use plan, an energy development plan, or a sustainable development plan it is called Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA).
The key stages of ESIA and SEA are fairly similar. However, the actual tasks and stakeholders involved during those phases can be quite different. The table below illustrates the main differences.
|Screening||Mostly decided case by case||Projects requiring EA are often listed|
|Scoping||Combination of political agenda, stakeholder discussion and expert judgement||Combination of local issues and
|Public Participation||Focus on representative bodies||Often include general public|
|Assessment||More qualitative (expert judgement)||More quantitative|
|Quality review||Both quality of information and stakeholder process||Focus on quality of information|
|Decision making||Comparison of alternatives against policy objectives||Comparison against norms and standards|
|Monitoring||Focus on plan implementation||Focus on measuring actual impacts|
Environmental assessment is a strong instrument as it is anchored in the legislation of a growing number of countries worldwide. The world map below shows the historical adoption of ESIA and SEA legislation and practice worldwide.
Worldmap of EIA/SEA legislation