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Examining Strategic Environmental Assessment Environmental Sciences Essay

4773 words (19 pages) Essay in Environmental Sciences

5/12/16 Environmental Sciences Reference this

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Environment is defined as the set of physical, chemical and biological systems and their relationships with economic, social and cultural factors with direct or indirect, gradual or immediate effect on living beings and human´s quality of life. Environmental Pollution is the introduction of contaminants into the environment that cause harm or discomfort to humans or other living organisms, or that damage the environment” which can come “in the form of chemical substances, or energy such as noise, heat or light”. “Pollutants can be naturally occurring substances or energies, but are considered contaminants when in excess of natural levels.

Environmental pollution is a problem both in developed and developing countries. Factors such as population growth, industrialization, and urbanization invariably place greater demands on the planet and stretch the use of maximum natural resources. All sectors of our society generate waste: industry, agriculture, mining, transportation, and construction. Among those sources, industry is the primary target of all waste generators because of its quantity and toxicity. Industries release the largest amount of highly toxic waste and we must focus on industrial pollution through pollution prevention programme and projects, need to be closely linked with policy -making process.

The very first worldwide environmental concern was initiated at the World Conference on ‘Human and Environment’ sponsored by the United Nations in Stockholm in 1972. The most visible result of conference was the creation of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) for promoting environmental enhancement program around the world.

Global economy has reinforced the geographic separation among resource extraction, production and consumption. Hence, those who reap the economic benefits of using natural resources often do not bear the environmental cost. The United Nations Conference on ‘Environment and Development’ held in Rio de Janerio in June, 1992, focused on these issues. This new awareness led to an international agenda for sustainable development and various non-binding agreements.

In fact, we need a balance between technological innovation and environmental enhancement, as well as a balance between economic development and environmental preservation. Agenda 21 is a blueprint for sustainable development into the 21st Century. Its basis was agreed during the “Earth Summit” at Rio in 1992.

Six key mechanisms were visualized in Agenda 21 for improved environmental management in the industrial sector:

Incorporating environmental considerations in industrial development through proper siting policies and mandatory environmental impact assessments.

Increasing efficiency in the production and use of materials, resources and energy.

Improving existing pollution abatement technologies and developing new clean technologies, products and processes.

Developing and implementing emission and effluent controls and standards.

Ratifying multilateral environment agreements (MEA) such as the Montreal Protocol and the Basel Convention on the Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal.

Corporate environmental responsibility: The role of business in improving the efficiency of resource use, reducing risks and hazards, minimizing wastes and safeguarding the environment.

Environmental problems are also becoming serious in India because of the interacting effects of increasing population density, industrialization and urbanization, and poor environmental management practices. Although environmental protection has always been a part and parcel of Indian Culture as evidenced by the stipulated responsibilities of the State as well as Citizens for the nature and living being in the Constitution of India under Article 48A and 5 1A (g). India is giving highest priority to this subject in its national planning.

Environmental management is not, as the phrase could suggest the management of the environment as such, but rather the management of interaction by the modern human societies with, and impact upon the environment. Environmental management is a mixture of science, policy, and socioeconomic applications. It focuses on the solution of the practical problems that humans encounter in cohabitation with nature, exploitation of resources, and production of waste.

Environmental laws and policies are based on the realization that the physical surroundings mark the dire necessities of mankind. Over the last few decades, the developing countries have established impressive arrays of policies, legislation and institutions for environmental protection and pollution control.

Laws for Environmental Management in India

The relevant laws relating to environmental management in India are listed below:

The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974.

The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act, 1977.

The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.

The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.

The Hazardous Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 1989 as amended in 2000.

The Manufacture, Storage and Import or Hazardous Chemical Rules, 1989 amended in 2000.

The Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991.

The Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 1994 as amended on May 14, 1994 and April 10, 1997.

The National Environment Tribunal Act, 1995.

The Chemical Accident (Emergency Planning, Preparedness and Response) Rules 1996.

The Biomedical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1998.

The Recycled Plastics Manufacture and Usage Rules, 1999.

The Fly Ash Notification, 1999.

The Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000.

The Batteries (Management and handling) Rules, 2001.

The role of environmental law is basically to shield and shelter the resources and preserve the environment. The government has taken initiative, time and again, to look into the environmental matters. Even though, over the past few years, the need to curb the environmental crises has been realized, yet there has not been any concrete step towards it. In this situation it becomes imperative that the people become aware of the environmental issues and know their rights and liabilities relating to the environment.

As with all management functions, effective management tools, standards and systems are also required. A large number of tools for assessing environmental impacts are available. Examples include Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), System of Economic and Environmental Accounting (SEEA), Environmental Auditing (EA), Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA) and Material Flow Analysis (MFA) and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA).

Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), a newly-developed decision-making support tool, has been used in many developed and developing countries for predicting and evaluating potential environmental impact of policies, plans, and programs (PPPs), as well as for providing alternatives to avoid, mitigate, or compensate for these impacts.

The concept of Strategic Environmental Assessments originated from regional development / land use planning in the developed world. In 1981, the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department published the Area-wide Impact Assessment Guidebook. In Europe ,the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context, the so called Espoo Convention, laid the foundations for the introduction of SEA in 1991.

The general objectives of SEA are :

1. Contribute to an environmental and sustainable decision-making process

2. Improve policy, plan and programme quality

3. Strengthen and facilitate project’s EIA

4. Foster new means of making decisions.

Over the last 15 years, Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) has become an important policy instrument for national governments, particularly in Europe. The integration of environmental concerns into strategic decision making and policy making has been widely recognized as an essential feature for moving towards more sustainable development in all policy sectors. SEA is a procedural tool with the purpose of integrating environmental aspects in a structured manner into decision making processes. So, the increasing awareness of environmental impact assessment community has recently led to an intensifying debate on the theoretical foundations and the appropriate practical use of SEA.

SEA is a framework within which a range of different analytical tools and methods can be applied. Assessment methods can be evaluated from different perspectives depending on the role, purpose and mechanism of assessment. The capability and international experience of the SEA approach makes it a benefit to the industrial sector in developing countries such as India.

Three main, interrelated avenues for further development of SEA are

Environmental Focus – Strengthening existing SEA arrangements and approaches as mechanism for Environmental Sustainability Assessment and assurance

Sustainability focus – Utilizing SEA as a component or means of integrated assessment of the effects of Policy and Planning proposals in relation to the environmental , social and economic objectives of sustainable development.

Convergence Focus – Promoting the convergence of SEA within integrated assessment and planning systems for sustainable development.

Some common threads run through all the three lines of approach, notably environmental integration, although the relative emphasis shifts in moving from the existing SEA approach to sustainability appraisal or integrated assessment and planning. These routes can be seen as sequential, progressive steps, securing one base before progressing to the next; and the process will take time.

In India, the term ‘SEA’ is not used in official parlance and, therefore, its use is not strictly governed by its many global definitions. Nevertheless, existing institutional mechanisms and EIA process at the country level provide elements of SEA that are being harnessed by decision makers and are increasingly popularizing SEA both as a concept and diagnostic tool for the review of environmental impacts including ecological, economic and social concerns that are integrated in decision making for economic development plans.

Strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is gaining widespread recognition as a tool for integrating environmental considerations in policy, plan, and program development and decision-making. Notwithstanding the potential of SEA to improve higher-order decision processes, there has been very little attention given to integrating SEA with industry planning practices. As a result, the benefits of SEA have yet to be fully realized among industrial proponents.

In this work an attempt has been made to look into the application of strategic environmental assessment for industries with the help of case studying and it is seen that SEA is an effective management tool to control industrial pollution not only for developed countries but also for developing countries. If SEA is to meet its potential, as a valuable business tool in addition to its policy role, then SEA must become relevant and responsive to the environmental governance of industry. This requires that SEA should form an integral part of industry planning and decision-making.

Organization of dissertation

In chapter -1, the introduction of strategic environmental assessment and its application in industry is discussed and organization of dissertation is given.

In chapter -2, genesis of strategic environmental assessment is given and its benefits and performance _________________are included.

In chapter- 3, a literature review of historical development and Status of SEA in developed and developing countries is presented and its relevance in Indian context is discussed.

In chapter-4, the process and methodology of SEA is covered and steps in SEA process, environmental objectives and SEA framework and method are described.

In chapter – 5, case studies on power industry and auto industry in Shandog Province of China are taken up and various types of problems encountered in SEA are discussed.

In chapter -6, results and discussions are included and recommendations for improving SEA system are given.

In chapter -7, the conclusion of the study is given and the importance of SEA in future is highlighted.

2.0 SEA: Genesis

Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is an impact assessment tool that is strategic in nature and has the objective of facilitating environmental integration and the assessment of the opportunities and risks of strategic actions in a sustainable development framework. The strategic action is strongly linked to the formulation of policies, and they are developed in a context of planning and programming procedures.

The strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is the term used to describe the environmental assessment process for policies, plans, and programmes (PPPs). Moreover, individual projects have not only economic but also environmental, social, and political impacts that can be acceptable when considering an isolated project, but unacceptable when taking into account both the direct and indirect effects of projects, policies, and programmes acting in synergy. SEA provides the framework for the articulation of individual projects in a way that is coherent and respectful with the environmental, social, political, and economic conditions. SEA contributes to a better planning and monitoring process and is a potential tool for decision making, as its more integrated assessment procedures improve the coordination between different impact assessments. SEAs should enable foresight and assist policy makers to design projects that maximize environmental, functional, economical, social, and political goals.

Objectives of SEA

The objectives of strategic environmental assessment are to :

Contribute to an environmental and sustainable decision-making process.

Improve policy, plan and programme quality.

Strengthen and facilitate project’s EIA.

Foster new means of making decisions.

Benefits of SEA

The immediate benefits of SEA application can be found in information that assists sound decision-making and in the consequent gains achieved in environmental protection and sustainable development.

There are secondary benefits of SEA also as it

Provides for a high level of environmental protection.

Improves the quality of plan and programme making.

Increases the efficiency of decision-making.

Facilitates the identification of new opportunities for development.

Helps to prevent costly mistakes.

Strengthens governance.

Facilitates transboundary cooperation.

2.3 SEA in the decision-making hierarchy

SEA is recognised as an important decision support tool for integrating environmental considerations along with social and economic considerations into proposed policies, plans and programmes (PPPs).

There is a hierarchy of levels in decision making comprising projects, programmes, plans and policies.

Figure 2.1 SEA : Up-streaming environmental considerations into the decision-

making Hierarchy, (Source – OECD, 2006)

Logically, policies shape the subsequent plans, programmes and projects that put those policies into practice. Policies are at the top of the decision-making hierarchy. As one moves down the hierarchy from policies to projects, the nature of decision-making changes, as does the nature of environmental assessment needed. Policy-level assessment tends to deal with more flexible proposals and a wider range of scenarios. Project-level assessment usually has well defined and prescribed specifications.

Policies, plans and programmes (PPPs) are more “strategic” as they determine the general direction or approach to be followed towards broad goals. SEA is applied to these more strategic levels. Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is used on projects that put PPPs into tangible effect.

2.4 SEA and Sustainable Development

Truly speaking, Sustainable development is meets the demands of today without destroying the possibilities for the future generations to satisfy their needs.

Sustainable development is now a generally accepted vision for any sort of development, but there is a concern over how to achieve such a process. The concept of SEA can contribute to the sustainable development process. Over the last 10 years, SEA has become widely recognized by governments and development stakeholders worldwide as a valuable component of the sustainable development process. SEA, involving the environmental assessment of proposed and existing PPPs and their alternatives, is gaining widespread recognition as a supporting tool for decision making towards achieving sustainable development.

The contribution of SEA towards sustainability stems from several points:

SEA ensures the consideration of environmental issues from the beginning of the decision-making process.

Provides a framework for the chain of actions

Contributes to integrated policy making, planning, and programming

Can detect potential environmental impacts at an early stage, even before the projects are designed.

2.5 Basic principles of SEA

To be influential and help improve policy-making, planning and decision-taking, an SEA should:

Establish clear goals.

Be integrated with existing policy and planning structures.

Be flexible, iterative and customised to context.

Analyse the potential effects and risks of the proposed PPP, and its alternatives, against

a framework of sustainability objectives, principles and criteria.

Provide explicit justification for the selection of preferred options and for the acceptance of significant trade-offs.

Identify environmental and other opportunities and constraints.

Address the linkages and trade-offs between environmental, social and economic considerations.

Involve key stakeholders and encourage public involvement.

Include an effective, preferably independent, quality assurance system.

Be transparent throughout the process, and communicate the results.

Be cost-effective.

Encourage formal reviews of the SEA process after completion, and monitor PPP outputs.

Build capacity for both undertaking and using SEA.

2.6 EIA and SEA

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a tool used to identify the environmental, social and economic impacts of a project prior to decision-making. It aims to predict environmental impacts at an early stage in project planning and design, find ways and means to reduce adverse impacts, shape projects to suit the local environment and present the predictions and options to decision-makers.

EIA is now practiced in more than 100 countries worldwide. Today, EIA is firmly established in the planning process in many of these countries. In 1989, the World Bank ruled that EIA should normally be undertaken for major projects by the borrower country under the Bank’s supervision. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) also made recommendations to member states regarding the establishment of EIA procedures and established goals and principles for EIA.

Despite the existence of good EIA guidelines and legislation, environmental degradation continues to be a major concern in developing countries. In many cases, EIA has not been effective due to legislation, organizational capacity, training, environmental information, participation, diffusion of experience, donor policy and political will. EIAs have not been able to provide ‘environmental sustainability assurance’ (ESA). This failure and the inherent limitations of EIA lead to the consideration of strategic environmental assessment (SEA). It is the proactive assessment of alternatives to proposed or existing PPPs, in the context of a broader vision, set of goals or objectives to assess the likely outcomes of various means to select the best alternative(s) to reach desired ends.

2.7 The fundamental differences between SEA and EIA

SEA and EIA are the tools that share a common root – impact assessment, but have different assessment foci: strategies for future development with a high level of uncertainty in SEA; proposals and measures, concrete and objective, for the execution of projects in EIA. This difference between SEA and EIA in the object of assessment generates different methodological requirements related to the scale of assessment and to the decision-making process.

In table 2.1, some fundamental differences between SEA and EIA are presented which help to corroborate the different methodological approaches that SEA and EIA must have.

Table 2.1: Fundamental differences between SEA and EIA

Some fundamental differences between SEA and EIA



The perspective is strategic and long-term.

The perspective is of execution in the short and


The process is cyclical and continuous.

The process is discrete, motivated by concrete

Intervention proposals.

The purpose is to help build a desirable future;

it is not to attempt to know the future.

The intervention project has to be known with

the suitable level of detail.

The definition of what is intended is vague,

there is a large amount of uncertainty and the

data are always quite insufficient.

The definition of what intends to be done is

relatively precise and data are reasonably available or can be collected through field Work.

Follow-up in SEA is performed through the

preparation and development of policies, plans,

programmes and Projects.

Follow-up in EIA is performed through the

construction and implementation of the project.

The strategy may never be put into practice

given that the actions established in plans and

programmes may never be implemented.

Projects requiring an EIA are executed, once their environmental feasibility is guaranteed.

Figure 2.2 (a) represents the behaviour of an SEA methodology that follows a traditional EIA-based model. The objective is to assess the solutions proposed by a plan or programme and their effects. The solutions proposed in a plan or programme are taken as outcomes, not as means to achieve objectives, and SEA is going to assess the impact of these outcomes on a set of environmental factors. This approach has very limited or even zero capacity to influence the major strategic options.


Figure 2.2: (a) EIA-based methodology, (b) Strategic-based methodology

(Source -Partidário, 2007)

Figure 2.2 (b) represents the behaviour of an SEA methodology that follows a strategic-based model – the objective is to assess the proposed strategies during a planning and programming process in relation to the manner in which these strategies seek to respond to strategic problems and objectives. In this case, the aim of SEA is to analyse and discuss strategic alternative options that provide a response to the same strategic problems and objectives in an environmentally more integrated and sustainable context. The analysis is centred on how the plan or programme seeks to resolve the development objectives or the problems in an environmental and sustainable way, and not to assess the actions proposed as solutions or outcomes in the plan or programme. This approach increases the opportunity of SEA to facilitate the integration of environmental and sustainability issues in these strategic processes.

2.8 The Evolving Paradigm-from EIA to SEA

The stages from EIA to SEA are given in Table 2.8

Table 2.2: Stages from EIA to SEA

Paradigm / stage

Key characteristics

1st Generation-Project EIA.

Includes social, health and other impacts, cumulative effects and biodiversity.

2nd Generation-SEA.

Applies to PPPs and legislation.

3rd Generation-towards environmental sustainability assurance (ESA).

Use of EIA and SEA to safeguard critical resource and ecological functions and offset residual damage; plus environmental accounting and auditing of natural capital loss and change.

Next generation-towards sustainability appraisal (SA).

Integrated or full cost assessment of the economic, environmental and social impacts of proposals.

2.9 Strategic Environmental Assessment Performance Criteria

A good-quality Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) process informs planners, decision makers and affected public on the sustainability of strategic decisions, facilitates the search for the best alternative and ensures a democratic decision making process. This enhances the credibility of decisions and leads to more cost- and time-effective EA at the project level. For this purpose, a good-quality SEA process:

Is integrated

Ensures an appropriate environmental assessment of all strategic decisions relevant for the achievement of sustainable development

Addresses the interrelationships of biophysical, social and economic aspects.

Is tiered to policies in relevant sectors and (transboundary) regions and, where appropriate, to project EIA and decision making.

Is sustainability-led

Facilitates identification of development options and alternative proposals that are more sustainable.

Is focused

Provides sufficient, reliable and usable information for development planning and decision making.

Concentrates on key issues of sustainable development.

Is customized to the characteristics of the decision making process.

Is cost- and time-effective.

Is accountable

Is the responsibility of the leading agencies for the strategic decision to be taken.

Is carried out with professionalism, rigor, fairness, impartiality and balance.

Is subject to independent checks and verification

Documents and justifies how sustainability issues were taken into account in decision making.

Is participative

Informs and involves interested and affected public and government bodies throughout the decision making process.

Explicitly addresses their inputs and concerns in documentation and decision making.

Has clear, easily-understood information requirements and ensures sufficient access to all relevant information.

Is iterative

Ensures availability of the assessment results early enough to influence the decision making process and inspire future planning.

Provides sufficient information on the actual impacts of implementing a strategic decision, to judge whether this decision should be amended and to provide a basis for future decisions.

2.10 SEA as a PPP (policies, programmes and plans) formulation tool

SEA methodology should emphasize the role of SEA as a PPP formulation tool. It is at the stage of PPP formulation, rather than of appraisal of an already formulated PPP (for instance, green paper stage, review, public consultation) that SEA can be most effective. PPPs go through a complex process of evolution during their development, and SEA has a significant role to play in this, as shown in Fig. 2.3

Figure 2.3: Role of SEA in PPP formulation (Source – Therivel, 2000)

SEA should start early in PPP formulation and be integrated, preferably as an active intervention in the PPP design process

Fig. 2.3 shows SEA as a design tool and not as a document. The preparation of a report is probably the least important part of the SEA. It should be regarded only as documentation of the processes used, and available, where necessary for later review. The real value in SEA is as a creative tool in the cycle of PPP formulation and reformulation. Bailey and Renton (1997) report, from their study of government agencies in Australia, “… the majority of responding agencies view policy formulation as the most appropriate point in the decision-making process for the consideration of environmental effects …” This value is derived from the involvement of environmental professionals in PPP formulation and increased environmental awareness amongst decision- makers, which leads to PPP modification where necessary to respond to environmental/ sustainability objectives. SEA also requires that the decision maker be an active participant in the SEA process. Relegation of the conduct of the SEA to consultants external to the PPP formulation process is unlikely to have the same effect on the outcome as extensive involvement by the proponent who holds the key to PPP modification and the early involvement of the decision-makers themselves.

2.11 Three lines of argumentation and Development of SEA

In spite of almost two decades of experience, Strategic Environmental Assessment’s (SEA) foundations remain unclear to the point that the case for needing an instrument called ‘SEA’ could be questioned. The aim is to ask what problems SEA was meant to solve, and what needs it was meant to address, by reflecting on the strengths and weaknesses of SEA thinking to date.

This critical reflection on the foundations of SEA has helped identify the strengths and weaknesses of arguments relating to the concept and approach to SEA.

The three lines of argumentation supporting the development of SEA are summarized in table 2.3

Table 2.3 Three lines of argumentation supporting the development of SEA

First line of argumentation

On ‘strategic’

The strategic dimension of SEA originally linked to the paucity of environmental type assessments of policies, plans and programmes (PPPs).

Second line of argumentation

On procedures, methods and tools

The framing of SEA’s methodological dimension in response to perceived limitations in EIA practice, and the growing emphasis on process versus technique

Third line of argumentation

On purpose

The purpose of SEA and the increased reference to the contribution to sustainable


(Source -Bina Olivia, 2007)

The main factors influencing the early development of these lines of argumentation, and their evolution over the last 15 years are highlighted in below Fig. 2.4

Figure 2.4 : Changing concept of SEA

First line of argumentation

The first line of argumentation has been a decisive influence in slowing the evolution of SEA in response to identified problems with EIA, by claiming that its strategic dimension was the result of the strategic nature of the planning decisions it was assessing, and by oversimplifying the nature of PPPs and of tiering. This has meant that the development of the ‘strategic dimension’ of SEA, in terms of its role, procedures, methods and tools, was delayed until the late 1990s.

Second line of argumentation

Second line of argumentation initially focused on technical and procedural problems (symptoms)

related to EIA practice. It was not until the late 1990s that the SEA community began to address

the caus

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