An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is an assessment and analysis of the likely positive and/or negative influences a project or business proposition may have on the environment. EIA’s can be defined as: “The process of identifying, predicting, evaluating and mitigating the biophysical, social, and other associated effects of development proposals before major decisions are taken and commitments made.” The purpose of EIA’s is to ensure that corporations consider environmental impacts before they decide to proceed with new projects. EIA’s predict what and how a specific action can do to the environment.
The EIA directive was first introduced in 1985 and was amended in 1997. The directive was amended again in 2003 following the 1998 signature by the EU of the Aarhus convention on public participation in environmental matters. Under the new EU directive, an EIA must provide certain information to comply. These are some of the key areas that are required:
1. Description of the project
2. Alternatives that have been considered
3. Description of the environment
4. Description of the significant effects on the environment
EIA’s are imperative for coastal zone management as they are sometimes all that stands for the protection of the environment and coastal zones
A Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is a system for incorporating environmental considerations into policies, plans and programmes. SEA’s were created because the European Union directive on Environmental Impact Assessments (known as the EIA Directive) only applied to certain projects. This was seen to have many flaws as it only dealt with specific effects on a small-scale local level whereas many environmentally damaging decisions were being made at a more strategic level. The incorporation of SEA’s in Europe began with the convention on environmental impact assessment in a transboundary context (the Espoo convention) introduced SEA’s in 1991. in 2001 the European SEA directive stated that all European union member states should have integrated the directive into their law by July 2004. The SEA Directive aims to introduce a systematic assessment of the environmental effects of strategic land use.
An SEA is conducted before an EIA is undertaken. This allows information on the environmental impact of a plan move down different stages of decision making and can be used in conjunction with an EIA at a later stage. This should reduce the amount of work that needs to be undertaken.
The structure of an SEA is as follows:
1) Screening: this is an investigation to whether the plan or programme falls under the SEA legislation,
2) Scoping: this defines the boundaries of investigation, assessment and assumptions required,
3) Documentation of the state of the environment: effectively a baseline on which to base judgments,
4) Determination of the likely (non-marginal) environmental impacts.
5) Informing and consulting the public.
6) Monitoring of the effects of plans and programmes after their implementation.