4. Describing the environmental baseline

Below are three quite different examples of how the environmental baseline has been described in SEA: they are all extracts of much larger reports.  As you look through the examples, you may want to consider:

  • Is it easy is it to identify key information and key environmental problems from the baseline? How user-friendly is the baseline description? This is important, as decision-makers and the public usually do not have much time and technical capability.
  • How rigorous is the data? How do you know? This is important because the SEA should be based on robust information, not hearsay or 'guesstimates' (though they are better than nothing at all).
  • Is it easy to identify where there are data gaps in the baseline? This matters because partial information may give a skewed or inaccurate picture of the subject. For instance, invertebrates may be thriving in an area whilst mammals are doing badly; providing information about only invertebrates or only mammals would not adequately represent the full baseline situation. The SEA should clarify what information is missing as well as what is there.
  • How well does the baseline description deal with partial data? For instance if data are only available for some districts in a region, this may pose a problem in presenting the data.
  • How easy is the baseline to update if information changes over time? This is important when SEA monitoring takes place and the strategic action's real impacts are tested against the SEA predictions.  It is also important for plans that are not one-off: for instance, if plans are rewritten every five years, then it is easier to update the baseline from the last plan's SEA than to start again anew. 

1. Text description of biodiversity baseline, from Hong Kong Highways Department (2002) Shenzhen Western Corridor - Investment and Planning, Environmental Impact Assessment Report

Mammal: Some upland habitats in the Western New Territories are thougt to be important to mammals, possibly due to the relatively low levels of human disturbance in these areas. A study of terrestrial habitats at Black Point found sings of Masked Palm Civet Paguma larvata, Small Indian Civet Viverricula indica and Chinese Pangolin Manis pentadactyle (ERL 1992).  Javan Mongoose Herpestes javanicus has been recorded at the WENT Landfill site during ecological monitoring (Shea et al. 1995).  All these species are protected under the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance.   The relatively low levels of human disturbance in this area may be conducive to inhabitation by these species, which in many other parts of the HKSAR would come under more intense trapping pressure.   The EIA of the Castle Peak Borrow Area suggested that the rocky terrain in this part of the Western New Territories provides shelter for a 'diverse and abundant mammalian fauna' (Greiner Maunsell 1992).  Arup (2002) reported Niviventer fulvescens, Rattus sikkimensis, and Rattus sp. from hillslope areas near the boundary of the DBL and SWC projects."

What are good points about this description?  

2. Description of water quality and resources baseline using a table

18. Maintain and improve water quality and achieve sustainable water resources management
Indicator Local data Regional data National data Target Trend Data Source
Adapted from Bracknell Forest District Council (2005)
Chemical river water quality (A = good, E = poor) (2005 data)
Upper Stream: B
Lower Stream: C
Middle Stream: C
South East
84.0 [1995]
94.0 [2005]
59.7% [1995]
67.3% [2005]
91% of river length to comply with EA River Quality Objectives [2005] Improving
Upper Stream:
D in 1995
Lower Stream:
D in 1995
Middle Stream:
E in 1995
Source: Environment Agency (website...)
Biological river water quality Lower Stream: C
Middle Stream: D
South East
95.0% [1995]
99.0% [2005]
83.5% [1995]
93.7% [2005]
91% of river length to comply with EA River Quality Objectives [2005] Lower Stream: same as 1995
Middle Stream: same as 1995
Source: Environment Agency (website...)
Incidents of major and significant water pollution   1,630 [2005]   Achieve 12% reduction in Category 1 and 2 incidents from all sectors [2007] Getting worse:
1200 [1999]
1500 [2001]
Per capita consumption of water
South East [2005]:
Unmeasured households:
165 L/day
Measured households:
150 L/day

Stabilise at current levels Getting worse:
Unmeasured households:
150 [1995]
Measured households:
140 [1995]
Water Company Y

What are good points about this description? 

3. Map of public transport accessibility baseline, from Kensington and Chelsea

Please click here for a PDF version of this map.

What are good points about this description?

August 18, 2006 Uncategorized — riki @ 12:31 am

1 Comment »

  1. Describing environmental baseline certainly gives a picture of the current situation which can be used to predict the future. However, its also important to note that poor description of environmental baseline sometimes leads to delayed decision as the information available may not be useful or it could be challenged by the public. Detailed description of environmental baseline will help in evaluating alternatives basing on the information provided and hence proposed adequate mitigation measures.

    Comment by Waiswa-Ayazika — August 29, 2007 @ 11:45 pm

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