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Key Features of Environment Assessment
  . ey steps involved in undertaking an ’ environmental assessment HOW TO USE THIS CHAPTER IN THE CONTEXT OF EA AND ROAD PLANNING Stage in road planning EA activity (A) (I.9 Involvement in addition to EA team (C) Shaded area = (A) Stages of EA covered in this chapter; (B) focus of this chapter; and (C) primary target readers. KEY QUESTIONS ADDRESSED: What sequence of steps should be followed when undertaking an EA? How does one plan a field investigation? How is the valued ecosystem component (VEC) concept used in EA? How should mitigation and monitoring be incorporated into EA? What is the relationship between the technical EA steps and consultation?  ROADS AND THE ENVIRONMENT A HANDBOOK 4.1 SEVEN KEY STEPS Assuming that the screening and scoping de- scribed in Chapter 3 has been completed, this chapter provides a discussion of seven key steps which are generally required to meet the objectives of EA.1 These six steps are: i. ii. . . . m. iv. V vi. description of baseline conditions; analysis of potential environmental im- pacts; consideration of alternatives;2 development of mitigative and compensa- tory measures; design of monitoring and evaluation plans (the environmental management plan); and documentation (including mapping). More detailed discussion of methods and sources of information which address these seven steps are provided in other chapters of this handbook. In particular: . consultation methods and options (Chapter 5); e assessment of impacts for different compo- nents of the environment (Chapters 7-17); . impacts during different stages of the proj- ect, such as construction and operation (Chapter 18); and . economic valuation of environmental im- pacts (Chapter 19). In a properly conducted EA, it is essential that both biophysical and socioeconomic compo- nents of the environment be taken into account. The two components can be applied in tandem to the same assessment, where they can work independently; at certain points in the process they need to be brought together to move to- ward an integrated output. Details of when each step is to take place within the EA process are shown graphically in Figure 1.1 (page 7). 2 The consideration of alternatives discussed in Chapter 4 refers to consideration of alternative project designs. Al- ternative solutions to the transportation problem are dealt with in Section 3.1 and should be completed as the first step in any EA. 4.2 DESCRIPTION OF BASELINE CONDITIONS Baseline conditions define the characteristics of the existing environment and shape projected future conditions, assuming no project is un- dertaken. They provide the basis from which project impact comparisons are made. Baseline analysis consists of more than making a statement on the initial environment of the proposed project. It should permit a comparison of project-induced environmental changes, with other expected environmental changes in the “no-project? scenario. Baseline analysis should take into account past trends in environmental quality; . community preferences or competing de- mands regarding resource utilization; and . other current or proposed development programs under study in the project area. The use of the VEC approach as described in Chapter 3 may be very useful in this re- gard and can greatly reduce the overall data collection effort. The quality of the analysis of baseline con- ditions establishes the viability of the impact appraisal, and therefore of the study itself. A more thorough study design brings together more relevant and better-focused data, and vastly improves the overall quality of the study. This stage of the EA process is of prime importance, for it allows the agency and the project proponent to benefit from a thorough study of the proposed site. Hurrying this stage of the EA, or not coordinating with the various organizations affected by the project, will usu- ally be counterproductive and add costs later. In assembling baseline data, it is important to understand that, in the natural environment, wide variations can occur over long periods of time. For example, forest maturity and natural processes such as fire can dramatically change animal habitats and human use of natural re- sources from one generation to the next. The VEC method incorporates such considerations, because the local input which contributes to the VEC identification process incorporates past experience and anticipated future values, in addition to present value. 34  KEY STEPS INVOLVED IN UNDERTAKING AN ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT 4.2.1 Collecting and analyzing existing basic documents Existing basic documents may include topo- graphic maps, vegetation maps, aerial photo- graphs, scientific and technical reports, past or current project appraisal reports, other EA docum ts, and government reports. Informa- tion sources and references must always be provided with each set of data. 4.2.2 Assembling information from different sources Technical, social, demographic, and economic information can be obtained from various gov- ernment departments at national, regional, or local levels, as well as from other research, business, professional, or non-governmental organizations. Usually, this involves intensive initial communication with officials in order to get a clear picture of the existing database anq to inform others that the project has com- menced. 4.2.3 Consultation with local residents and professionals Consultation with local residents and profes- sionals can assist baseline data gathering by validating information from other sources and identifying important local expertise as well as FIGURE 4 1 SAMPLE DESIGN DECISION KEY 1. Has the impact already occurred? /““\ 2. Is “when where” known? 3 Is there a control area? YES ‘\ \N,O J YES technical gaps. It can often improve an EA’s relevance, help to identify real and perceived issues, and even reduce overall EA cost. Con- sultation is crucial, even if the VEC approach is not used. 4.2.4 The sampling design The success of baseline data collection depends, in large measure, on how well the extent of human interference with the environment is understood. It is also critical to understand where and how the data are collected (the ’ sampling design). Proper sampling design will help to distinguish between project-induced impacts and existing background variations. The inclusion of sampling locations that truly reflect conditions outside the influence of ex- isting development may also be important in this regard. A decision-tree for determining, at the macro-level, what sort of sampling program should be undertaken for various project situa- tions is presented in Figure 4.1. 4.2.5 The field investigations Successful field investigations are based on careful planning and consideration of the envi- ronmental context of the project, the available time, and available funding. Field investiga- tions should take note of how seasons of the year and the existing environmental setting Main sequence Description Source: Green 1979. 35  ROADS AND THE ENVIRONMENT: A HANDBOOK BOX 4 1 RAPID ENVIRONMENTAL DATA COLLECTION SYSTEM A consultant working on the World Bank India Na- tional Roads Planning Project linked electronic field form software, an electronic notepad (handwriting recognition) and a portable GPS system, and used the combination as a field data collection system. This system automatically converts all field data into computer-ready records that are gee-referenced (latitude-longitude or UTM coordinates) and in- stantly ready for analysis and graphing, using off- the-shelf software. With this system, the consultant was able to complete the initial environmental evaluation for more than 2,500km of roadway within a four week period and actually use over 2,500 ob- servations in establishing broad-scale estimates of the potential duration and extent of impacts. may affect results. Experienced environmental specialists, working with experts from the local area, can often design effective and economical field investigations, even with severe time re- strictions (see Box 4.1). Project managers intending to conduct field investigations need to consider explicitly the following factors: * sample station location; e number of sampling locations; B number of replications; 0 use of surrogate indicators where use of op- timal measures may not be practical; and cp seasonal variations in relation to impacts. Completion of the VEC exercise greatly re- duces the guesswork needed in designing the field program and, in fact, embraces much of the work described in this section. 4.2.6 Tracking project-induced versus natural environmental changes Understanding the differences between project- induced environmental variations and those that occur naturally in the study area can de- termine whether the EA produced is valuable or relatively meaningless. Tracking these dif- ferences requires structuring the project sam- pling design in such a way that 0 Whatever data are collected reflect the larger context within which the project may take place. 36 . The design captures the extent of existing human disturbance in the area, recognizing that this change is part of the background conditions and must be factored in when impact predictions are made. 4.3 ANALYSIS OF POTENTIAL ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS Environmental impact analysis consists of comparing the expected changes in the bio- physical and socioeconomic environment with and without th project. For each type of poten- tial impact or environmental concern, the ,,,. I L analysis should predict the nature and signifi- cance of the expected impacts (some may be quantitative, others qualitative), or explain why no significant impact is anticipated. 4.3.1 Determining significance Determining the significance of impacts is often left out of EAs because it requires multi- disciplinary, multi-faceted inputs. Significance, if it is expressed properly, addresses the fol- lowing seven conditions: 4 ii) iii) iv) v) vi) predicted exceedence of established criteria or standards; duration of the exceedence in relation to key species’ life cycles and requirements for population maintenance; geographic extent of an effect; resilience of the environment in which the predicted effect is to take place (i.e. capac- ity for self-repair - as with tidal flushing); cumulative nature of the impact; community tolerance of the impacts, and preferences in relation to the costs and benefits of the project; and vii) need for involuntary resettlement. Broadly speaking, these seven factors can be considered good indicators of significance when they are blended with competent eco- logical and sociological appreciation of the af- fected environmental component. By examin- ing these factors, practitioners should be able to establish the importance of the effect and thus the urgency of the mitigative action. 4.3.2 Impact characteristics Analysis of potential environmental impacts should include specific discussion of the mag- nitude and duration of impacts.
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