5. Monitoring

Monitoring the actual impacts of a strategic action aims to:

  • test whether the strategic action is achieving its objectives and targets/benchmarks;
  • identify negative impacts - predicted and not predicted - requiring remediation;
  • help ensure that mitigation measures proposed in the SEA are implemented; and
  • give feedback to assist in impact predictions for future SEAs.

Monitoring is thus linked to the environmental baseline, impact predictions, and mitigation measures. The environmental indicators identified earlier can be used for monitoring.

A typical structure for monitoring is shown below:

Example of typical structure for monitoring
SEA objective Significant environmental impact Proposed monitoring
Based on: Environment Agency (2006) Humber Estuary Defence Study.
To protect and where possible enhance flora and fauna

Permanent loss of inter-tidal habitat due to 'hold the line' coastal protection schemes and ongoing coastal squeeze

Monitoring of the quantity of inter-tidal habitat losses and gains using:

  • modelling based on water levels (annual)
  • aerial photography (at least on a 5 yearly basis)
Inter-tidal habitat creation

Long-term monitoring through:

  • aerial photography
  • vegetation surveys
  • bird surveys
  • benthic macro-invertebrate surveys
To protect the historic environment
Potential to unearth or damage buried archaeological features
No strategic monitoring required.  During preparation of detailed designs, appropriate archaeological assessments and watching briefs will be carried out.

In many cases, monitoring data that are already being collected for other purposes can be used for SEA. For instance, air pollution emissions may be collected as part of integrated pollution control requirements, or wildlife may be monitored for biodiversity action plans. In other cases, specific monitoring schemes will need to be established.

Monitoring at the SEA level is typically (still) carried out poorly, and at the strategic level it will always be difficult to tell how much a strategic action is responsible for environmental changes, or whether the changes are due to other reasons. However monitoring is vital.  Below is an example where monitoring has identified that a strategic action is having significant negative unintended consequences, and the factors that led to this.  What kind of response should this kind of information trigger, both for the strategic action being monitored and for similar future strategic actions?

Extracts from Nadal, A. (2000) The Environmental & Social Impacts of Economic Liberalization on Corn Production in Mexico, report to Oxfam GB and WWF International.

"The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between Mexico, the United States and Canada came into effect on 1 January 1994.  This study compares the anticipated impacts of liberalizing the Mexican corn sector, which produces the country's key staple food crop and provides an important source of livelihood, under NAFTA with the actual socio-economic and environmental outcomes...

Poverty levels in Mexico have increased in the past five years and the situation of rural farmers, especially corn producers is desperate, partly as a result of the NAFTA-induced changes in trade and other government policies.  These changes have resulted in higher levels of migration from rural areas and increased pressure on land, aquifers and forests.  Some of the most alarming (and unexpected) impacts are the expansion in surface area of corn cultivation and the fall in average yields.  Together, these have generated intense pressure for encroachment on Mexico's biosphere reserves and other protected areas...

A key finding of this study is that the planned fifteen-year transition period was actually compressed to roughly thirty months.  Between January 1994 and August 1996 domestic corn prices fell by 48%, thereby converging with the international market some 12 years earlier than provided for under NAFTA, and forcing Mexican corn producers into a rapid readjustment.  This was because the Mexican government did not implement the tariff rate quota as planned, but instead exempted all corn imports from tariff payments after 1994...

Between 1994 and 1998, imports of cheap corn did lead to price reductions, and at a much faster rate than anticipated.  However, the predicted drop in domestic corn output did not take place...  At the same time the area under corn cultivation actually increased, implying a drop in average yield per hectare and suggesting that more marginal land was being cultivated under increasingly stressful conditions.

The fundamental flaw in the official pre-NAFTA studies was the assumption that only one variable, market price, would determine changes in the behavior of Mexican corn producers.  However, producers' decisions are made in the light of many other factors, such as market prices for alternative crops, wage costs, and interest rates..."

June 13, 2006 Uncategorized — brendan @ 2:33 pm

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