ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT EVALUATION AND STRATEGIC ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT
Learning outcomes of the course unit
The objectives are structured around the axis learning-comprehension, in the understanding that there is no comprehension without learning. In this framework the effort is produced during lessons and class-work. Lesson, in particular, are structured and organized to make understanding more accessible through:
1. the use of electronic material (ppt. presentations) that reproduces in an intelligible way dynamics, graphs, matrices, flow-charts, that are essential to explain procedures, models, logic behind the concepts;
2. practical examples in which theoretical concepts are applied in real assessment contexts (applied learning and understanding); in this part the students are requested to make their own assessment on a real project or plan, to challenge what they have learned in the lessons as for legislative issues, knowledge about project and environmental issues; modeling capability, assessment methodologies.
Independence of judgment is crucial for a discipline like the one taught in the course, where uncertainty about assessment is the rule rather than the exception. In this framework major effort is dedicated to teach:
1. methods to decide in the presence of uncertainty;
2. use of multicriteria analysis for problem solving;
3. methods to analyze results obtained from alternative methods/models and identify robust results.
Communication skill is built up mainly through class presentations of the various topics but also during class exercises in which the students are requested to express their point of view in simulations of the conflict-negotiation dynamics.
Base knowledge on methematics, physics, chemistry, geology, ecology, ecological economics, environmental legislation.
Course contents summary
The Course can be thought as methodologicaly composed of three parts. In the first the focus is on legislation and descending procedures. In the second, more methodologicaly-oriented, attention is given to technical and scientific aspects of the assessment: predictive models, indicators, methods for assessing altetrnatives, quality functions to convert qualitative judgments in quantitative scores for the impacts; methods to summarize the impacts: matrices, networks, typing of impacts.
The third part of the course concerns the analysis of case studies for a better comprehension of the theoretical and practical aspects of environmental assessment.
Module 1. Environmental Impact Assessment, Strategic Environmental Assessment, Habitat Integrity Assessment: definitions, vocabulary, terminology. Legislation on EIA, SEA, HIA. The decree n. 4 16/01/2008. EIA, SEA HIA procedure. Screening and Scoping. The role of the authorities, the timing of the assessment, the role of the stakeholders, participation of the public to the assessment. Planning and Assessment as a unique process in the SEA framework. The administrative relationships between the three procedures. Which EIA (SEA) for which project (plan): the technical annexes. The DPCM 27/12/1988)
Module 2. Environmental Assessment main documents. The environmental report for the EAS assessment. Sustainability objectives and planning objectives. Planning actions. Comparative assessment based on hyerarchically connected plans (external coherence analysis) and assessing impact of planning action on sustainability objectives (internal coherence assessment). Performance indicators for SEA. Descriptive indicators. Environmental components. Environmental impact assessment study and its structure. Project, planning and environmental reports as parts of the EIS document. Project actions and the prevention framework. How to write SEA, EIA and HIA reports.
Module 3. Methods for EIA, SEA and HIA. Indices and indicators. System level indices. Sensitivity maps of the territory as obtained from combining descriptive and functional indicators. The qualitative characterization of the impacts (typing). Quantitative conversion. The numerical scales. Subjectivity as a main problem in defining scales and criteria for acceptability. Predictive models. Qualitative models of complex systems. Prediction tables as diagnostic tools to identify sources of impacts. Simulation models for predicting impacts. Ecological and social networks to assess system robustness and sensitivity to the impacts. Indices of system growth and development to assess eco- and human system health. Summarizing results for a better assessment: matrices and networks. Preparing for uncertainty.
Module 4. A SEA case study: critical assessment and proposal for improvement the panning instruments. Review of a EIA study. Preparing an project, planning or environmental report to compose an EIS (Environmental Impact Study).
Antonio Bodini, Cristina Bondavalli, Stefano Allesina 2007. L'ecosistema e le sue relazioni: idee e strumenti per la valutazione di impatto ambientale e di incidenza. Milano, FrancoAngeli, 159 pp.
Larry W. Canter 1996. Environmental Impact Assessment. McGraw-Hill 660 pp.
textbooks are integrated with material taken from the scientific journal
EIA Review (http://www.journals.elsevier.com/environmental-impact-assessment-review/)
1. legislation and descending procedure for Environmental and Strategic Impact Assessment
2. the structure of EIA and SEA studies.
Lectures are supported by class exercise in which students simulate the conflict-negotiation dynamics typical of EIA and SEA procedures. In these simulations students play the role of the different stakeholders involved in the procedure. Also exercises are executed to review an EIA or SEA pre-compiled study (simulating the role and action of the Authority in charge for the assessment) or produce a ex novo EIA or SEA study.
Assessment methods and criteria
The final examination is composed of two parts. In the first the student is requested to critically analyze a SEA document that a public administration has produced to obtain an overall sustainability evaluation concerning a plan or a policy. The student is requested to make an oral presentation of his critical review. The second part is a classical oral examination about EIA procedure. Main goal of the presentation is to make clear the level of learning and understanding reached by the student while he critically highlights the differences and similarities between the case study and the theory that has been taught during the course. In this phase also the communicative skills and the applied knowledge are evaluated. In particular, this latter depends on the capability that the student may show in providing suggestions to revise the document. In the second part the minimum requirements that the student is asked to fulfill is the ability to logically concatenate issues, to show his skill in developing a predictive model given certain ecological constraints, to critically analyze the outcomes of the model and the level of uncertainty that can be associated to such outcomes. The overall evaluation is the average of the scores obtained in the two parts.