7. Why do we need a new assessment system?

Is SEA just a dressed-up EIA?

The answer to that question is "No".  Integration of SEA into the PPP formulation process will not be achieved by attempting to translate existing project-based EIA legislation, procedures and format, upstream.  New methodologies and procedural requirements, specifically for SEA, will be required.  Particular efforts are needed to consider indirect, secondary and cumulative impacts which are not covered adequately at project-level EIA.  The effects of strategic actions are often much more uncertain than those of projects, so SEA methods need to be able to cope with this uncertainty.  The time frame for SEAs, the evolutionary nature of the formulation of strategic actions, and their synergies with other strategic actions, are also very different to site-specific projects, and need to be recognised in the development and adoption of SEA methods.

However, some principles and concepts from project-based EIA are equally relevant in SEA: these include the consideration of the need for the strategic action, alternatives, means to ameliorate adverse impacts, involvement of a range of disciplines in the assessment process, and stakeholder participation.

Aren't we already carrying out SEA?

The answer to this question is also "No".

With increasing awareness of environmental and sustainability issues at a policy level in government, and the development of Environmental Management Systems (EMS) in government and industry, there is often at least some consideration of these matters within many decision-making processes.  These may already constitute effective SEA or, more likely, represent elements of SEA.  For example, the formulation of integrated catchment management plans, regional environmental plans, and urban conservation programmes may already include SEA-like methodologies, even though they may not be recognized as such.

Environmental assessment practitioners developing SEA methodologies must recognise where existing processes include some elements of SEA, supplement them where they are deficient, or provide the complete framework for SEA where none is present.  SEA proponents have to be aware of any environmental and sustainability considerations that are already taken into account in existing strategic action development activities.

This tendency for convergence of SEA and other planning methodologies in their consideration of environmental, social and sustainability dimensions is clearly a benefit, but it is also a source of confusion, and can lead strategic action proponents to suggest that "we are already doing SEA but just not calling it that".  This is often partly true, but SEA may provide the framework to bring these techniques together in a more conscious, structured, and comprehensive manner, moving towards a more holistic sustainability analysis.  Even where existing techniques include an emphasis on the environment, SEA provides an opportunity to broaden this from too narrow a biophysical emphasis in some instances, or too narrow a social emphasis in others.  This breadth is particularly appropriate for strategic action formulation and decision-making, where environmental costs at one tier could be counterbalanced by benefits at another tier, and where a strategic action formulation decision would more appropriately be based on a wide range of social, economic and environmental factors.

June 12, 2006 Uncategorized — brendan @ 4:32 pm

1 Comment »

  1. Its true that many plans are developed using SEA type approaches but they are not SEAs. In Uganda, there are many such policies and plans that have been developed using SEAs type approaches, however there is growing need for a complete SEA framework to be applied

    Comment by Waiswa-Ayazika — August 7, 2007 @ 7:38 am

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