WHAT IS WRONG WITH EIA AND SEA ANYWAY? A SCEPTIC'S PERSPECTIVE ON SUSTAINABILITY ASSESSMENT
THOMAS B FISCHER
Environmental impact assessment (EIA) was initially introduced as an advocacy instrument for the biophysical environment in project decision-making. Strategic environmental assessment (SEA) evolved with a similar mission for strategic level proposals. However, recent trends towards more integration, particularly in the context of sustainability assessment (SA) mean that social and economic aspects are now frequently considered on a par with the environment in impact assessment processes. There are indications that this development will ultimately favour trade-offs towards socio-economic benefits, causing adverse environmental impacts. In this paper, we discuss problems connected with these types of integrated assessments. Based on observations of SA processes are actually environmentally unsustainable, we argue that the need for environment focussed EIA and true SEA in planning processes is now greater than ever. We suggest that until power relationships develop in a way that will allow integration in an environmentally sustainable manner, practitioners should not give up the benefits that have arisen from 35 years of EIA practice. We conclude that in our current world, there is nothing wrong with environmental advocacy â let's continue to use EIA and SEA effectively to protect the environment!
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