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Critically review the practice of post-development monitoring in eia

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Studies
Wordcount: 3249 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Introduction

Since the 1960s, there has been a growing concern in the environment and the unfavorable impact that society has on the global environment (United Nations, 1990). Over the years, there has been a steady introduction of environmental legislation, in an attempt to regulate impacts on the environment. However, other environmental management means have also been developed. These include environmental auditing, environmental accounting, environmental reporting, life-cycle assessment, environmental management systems, risk assessment and environmental impact assessment. Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has become a widely used means for making out the possible impacts of new developments (Glasson et al, 1999). It is proposed to provide decision-makers with an understanding of the possible environmental consequences of a proposed project and thereby facilitate the making of more environmentally sound decisions (Bailey and Hobbs 1990). EIA is now being used in many countries worldwide (Glasson et al 1999).

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In the 1990s, a worldwide study on the usefulness of environmental assessment was carried out, which highlighted several areas were improvements needed to be made; areas such as scoping, evaluating significance, review of environmental statements and post-decision monitoring and auditing mostly termed as follow-up (Sadler 1996). Lack of follow-up is undeniably the weakest point in many systems and this is resulting to questions over whether EIA is being used effectively. Effective EIA should lessen the environmental impacts of developments; however, without follow-up being completed it is only the envisaged impacts on the environment and not the existent impacts that are regarded. Furthermore, the EIA process can be divided into two stages based around the approval for a development proposal: pre-decision and post-decision (Marshall, 2004). Follow-up, which includes post-decision monitoring and auditing, refers to actions that occurs all through the post-decision stages of the EIA process to monitor, evaluate, manage and communicate the environmental results that in reality happen (Arts et al 2001). Current practice has focused on the pre-decision stages of the process, which means that little or no attention is paid to whether the actual impacts of the development match up to those that were predicted. There is much debate as to the effectiveness of EIA practice without follow-up; it has not been thoroughly required or properly implemented within current practice (United Nations, 1990).

This review will first discuss the definition of follow-up, and then highlights the various types of follow-up. Following this, the role and value of follow-up in EIA is discussed; the basic principles are stated; legislative requirement for follow-up with reference to different countries is examined; an overview of required bodies for follow-up practice is also looked into and then an overview of the global perspective of follow-up practice is discussed.

EIA Follow-up

In its role as an environmental management means, EIA must put into practice processes for verifying the existence of predicted effects and controlling the damaging effects of those that in reality happen (United Nations, 1990). Thus, impact studies should take into consideration the need for and requirements of follow-up (Wood, 2003). EIA follow-up is important to the entire assessment process because it provides information about the outcomes of an activity and ensures that development and management requirements have been met (Arts et al., 2001). Guidance for good practice EIA follow-up, however, has not been efficient and has been addressed on very few occasions (Marshall, 2004).

Follow-up has been used as a general term for various EIA activities including: monitoring; auditing; ex postevaluation; post-decision analysis; and post-decision management. While there is no single definition for follow-up, it is generally related to activities in the post-decision phase of a project (Arts et al, 2001). Follow-up includes the gathering of data, the arrangement and investigation of this data and the review of the acquired information about the impacts of a project that has been subject to EIA. It also involves decision-making on remedial procedures and communication of the results of this process (Wood, 2003). Thus, follow-up is comprised of four key activities; see figure 1 below for further illustration.

Role and Value of EIA follow-up

EIA is intended to provide decision makers with information concerning the environmental impacts of development on the environment. For this information to be reliable, it must be verified (Arts et al, 2001). Moreover, the responsible parties, that is the proponent or the competent bodies have a starting point for employing mitigation procedures and precautionary procedures for the negative impacts. The response acquired from follow-up programs is important for the improvement of EIA which currently can best be described as weak and not realized to its full potential (United Nations, 1990). Follow-up is an essential part of any EIA system in that follow-up ensures that EIA actually works to protect the environment and achieve its intended objectives (Marshall, 2004). The United Nations (1990), for example, observed that follow-up examinations are useful in making certain or assisting the execution of development activity in accordance with the terms put in place by the environmental assessment process. It involves monitoring project outcomes, evaluating results and integrating mitigation procedures from the initial process of the project. EIA should be applied as early as possible and follow-up, as a system of checks and balances, should commence as the assessment unfolds to generate data and ensure the results of assessment are integrated into the project design and management (Marshall, 2004). Furthermore, examination of environmental impacts serves as an indicator to practitioners on which impacts need mitigation. Hence, follow-up creates opportunity for practitioners to look back at the impacts foreseen and the mitigation procedures recommended to determine accuracy and effectiveness so that suitable action can be taken (Arts et al 2001).

Follow-up, identified as environmental auditing and monitoring programs in some literature, is important to verify that the environmental predictions and assumptions are valid and to monitor the actual environmental performance of projects (Abaza, 2000). Follow-up ensures impacts are mitigated before breaching established criteria, to capture growing environmental impacts, and to guarantee that mitigation procedures are properly and timely implemented (United Nations, 1990). Hence, the follow-up process should naturally be integrated in every EIA and at all stages of the project life cycle; that is follow-up should analyze the entire cycle of a proposed project. In this way, EIA is a cyclical activity, with feedback and interaction between various steps being critical for improving EIA practice (Wood, 2003).

Principles of EIA Follow-up

EIA follow-up principles have been stated by various authors; however this review provides a summary of these various views. Follow-up principles are divided into Guiding Principles and Operating Principles as put forward by Morrison-Saunders et al (2007); see figure 2 below.

Legislative Framework for Follow-up Monitoring

The regulatory and institutional arrangements include the legal requirements and administrative framework for conducting EIA follow-up. In different countries around the world, there are different legislative requirements for follow-up practice; see figure 3 below. Practices vary from voluntary commitments for monitoring and reporting on EIA outcomes through to specific command and control approaches, some of which provide for specialist independent follow-up review bodies. Generally systems with a long history of EIA tend to be more advanced in their requirements for follow-up (Morrison-Saunders et al 2007).

Country

Status

Legislative Requirement

United Kingdom

Developed

Discretionary

Australia

Developed

Discretionary

Canada

Developed

Mandatory

Netherlands

Developed

Mandatory

New Zealand

Developed

Mandatory

California

Developed

Mandatory

Egypt

Developing

Non Existent

Turkey

Developing

Non Existent

Tunisia

Developing

Non Existent

Required Bodies for Follow-up Monitoring

EIA follow-up can take many forms, ranging from proponent-driven self-regulation to requirements put in place by EIA regulators or initiatives motivated by community involvement (Arts et al, 2001). Monitoring and evaluation may be conducted by proponents and regulators alike depending on the level of application. Continuing management decisions may be made by both proponents e.g., responding to unforeseen impacts and EIA regulators e.g., reviewing consent conditions and management requirements. Also, both proponents and EIA regulators may engage in communication programs. Some follow-up programs go far beyond mere communication to specifically include stakeholder participation in the monitoring, evaluation and management proceedings (Marshall, 2004).

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According to Morrison-Saunders et al (2007), there are three major groups of stakeholders involved in EIA follow-up whether as initiator, conductor or participant. Follow-up programs driven by proponents i.e. the first party follow-up, may also include voluntary, self-regulatory or industry-led initiatives such as environmental management systems. Follow-up carried out by regulators, the second party follow-up, typically focuses on making sure that proponents conform to EIA approval conditions as well as learning from experience to improve EIA processes in the future. Follow-up activities carried out or initiated by the community i.e. third party follow-up may range from formal committees or agencies (NGOs) established to manage or conduct follow-up activities through to independent action by community members concerned about environmental impacts.

Global Perspective of EIA Follow-up Practice

EIA is far from perfect; based on various reviews; it is widely believed that follow-up practice is the weakest area in the EIA process globally. As Sadler (1996) found out in his review of the effectiveness of various EIA systems globally, that there was a poor performance of follow-up activities. Also, Wood (2003) carried out a review on EIA systems in developed countries like UK, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, USA, Netherlands and South Africa and found out that follow-up practices are not widespread. As in the developed world, follow-up monitoring has been a missing step in EIA in developing countries. For example, George (2000b) identified the lack of attention and commitment to follow up as a serious shortcoming in Egypt, Turkey and Tunisia.

Despite the widely recognized importance of EIA, follow-up has not been satisfactorily implemented in EIA practice (Austin, 2000) and has yet to be recognized as an essential part of the EIA process (Marshall, 2004). The extent to which follow-up monitoring is required by the EIA processvaries greatly between countries, although mandatory requirements appear to be the exception rather than the rule. The EU Directive 97/11/EC as amended, does not specifically require follow-up monitoring (Wood, 2003), and this is reflected by a similar lack of legislative provision in most Member States’. In Canada, EIA is enforced by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency; although there has been some measure of progress achieved in EIA, there are also several shortcomings. Follow-up processes have been hampered by weaknesses in laws (CEAA, 2004). Also, developers may be legally required to carry out follow-up monitoring under other legislation if specified in, for example, planning consent conditions, emission consents or legal agreements as in the case of UK. But these methods are limited and do not represent a systematic approach to monitoring (Glasson, 1994). Follow-up monitoring has been poorly implemented also in Sri Lanka with the problem of inadequate staff, space allocation, funds, and equipment (Morrison-Saunders et al, 2007). In the United States, NEPA does not provide detailed information on the subject of follow-up monitoring; it states that monitoring and enforcement program shall be implemented where applicable for any mitigation.

The emphasis in EIA has all too frequently been on the pre-decision stages and on preparation of the EIS, using EIA purely to achieve development consent rather than as a tool for sound environmental management and protection. As Sadler (1996) states, the inconsistency of EIA is that very little attention is paid to the environmental effects which actually result from the development. There is very little emphasis on follow-up, on comparing what was predicted with what really happened, and on feeding the results of such exercises back into the EIA process. Without follow-up and feedback, EIA remains as a none-moving, infrequent routine rather than becoming an active and recurring process (Glasson, 1994). This lack of mandatory follow-up requirement, combined with a lack of enforcement, means that, from the developer’s point of view, it really does not matter if predictions are inaccurate.

Conclusion

If the performance of EIA in accurately predicting impacts and enabling sound environmental protection and management is to improve, lessons must be learnt from past experience and applied to future developments. Follow-up provides a means of achieving this and delivering numerous benefits. Despite this, follow-up monitoring is rarely carried out in practice. Having assessed follow-up practices in both developed and developing countries, it is evident that the existence of a legislative framework is not sufficient to make the system effective. Although some countries’ legislative requirements are mandatory yet problems arise due to the limited scope of legal measures and administrative support (Mitchell, 1997). Other weaknesses reside in the procedures for the design and implementation of follow-up and control mechanisms; also, the attention has largely focused on the pre-decision stages of impact assessment with follow-up monitoring receiving less attention (Arts et al., 2001). Wlodarczyk (2000) notes that understanding among practitioners of what EIA follow-up is and what it entails has not been made clear. Some have interpreted follow-up strictly as the application of mitigation measures suggested in the EIA report. The result is that prediction accuracy is not being confirmed nor is the effectiveness of improvement measures being determined.

Finally, there is a need to overcome the various setbacks associated with follow-up practices; as (Marshall, 2004) states that EIA follow-up is a feedback mechanism to reflect the pitfall or success of projects. Countries around the world need to improve on the image of follow-up monitoring to highlight its benefits; the possibility of developing mandatory requirements or a central guidance for EIA follow-up needs further exploration; continuous follow-up monitoring needs to be undertaken, and the results publicized and circulated to EIA practitioners. An opportunity to improve EIA practice and procedures is being missed with every development for which an EIS is submitted with no follow-up analysis carried out (Glasson, 1994).

Reference

Abaza, H (2000) Strengthening Future Environmental Assessment Practice: An International Perspective, in Lee, N and George, C (Eds) Environmental Assessment in Developing and Transitional Countries, Chichester, John Wiley and Sons.

Ahmad, B and Wood, C. M (2002) Environmental Impact Assessment in Egypt, Turkey and Tunisia, Environmental Impact Assessment Review,Volume 22, pp. 213-234.

Arts, J., Caldwell, P., and Morrison-Saunders, A (2001) Environmental Impact Assessment

Follow-up: Good Practice and Future Directions – Findings from a Workshop at IAIA 2000

Conference, Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal,Volume 19(3), pp. 175-185.

Bailey, J.M and Hobbs, V (1990) A Proposed Framework and Database for EIA Auditing, Journal of Environmental Management, Volume 31, pp. 163-72.

Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (2004) Strengthening Environmental Assessment in Canada: Amendments to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, Available at http://www.ceaa.gc.ca/013/001/0003/index_e.htm, Accessed on Friday January 29th, 2010.

George, C (2000b) Environmental Impact Prediction and Evaluation, in Lee, N and George, C (Eds.)Environmental Assessment in Developing and Transitional Countries, Chichester, John Wiley and Sons.

Glasson, J (1994) Life after the Decision: The Importance of Monitoring in EA, Built Environment, 20, pp. 309-320.

Glasson, J., Therivel, R., and Chadwick, A (1999) Introduction to Environmental Impact Assessment, UCL Press.

Marshall, R (2004) Can Industry Benefit from Participation in EIA-follow up? The Scottish Power Experience, in Morrison-Saunders, A and Arts, J (Eds), Assessing Impact: Handbook of EIA and SEA Follow-up, Earthscan James & James, London, Chapter 6.

Mitchell, B (1997) Resource and Environmental Management, Waterloo, Addison Wesley Longman Limited.

Morrison-Saunders, A., Marshall, R and Arts, J (2007) EIA Follow-Up International Best Practice Principles, International Association for Impact Assessment, Special Publication Series No. 6, Fargo, USA.

Sadler, B (1996) Environmental Assessment in a Changing World: Evaluating Practice to Improve Performance, Final Report, International Study of the Effectiveness of Environment Assessment, Ottawa, Canadian Environmental Agency.

United Nations (1990) Post-project Analysis in Environmental Impact Assessment, Report Prepared by the Task Force on Environmental Impact Assessment Auditing with Canada as Lead Country, New York.

Wlodarczyk, T. L (2000) Improving Monitoring and Follow – up in Canadian Environmental Assessments, Paper Presented at the IAIA Conference June 2000, Hong Kong.

Wood, C (2003) Environmental Impact Assessment, A Comparative Review, Second Edition Prentice Hall, Harlow.

 

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