Consideration of baseline in EIA
Chapter one: Introduction
1.1 EIA and Baseline
Environmental impact assessment, EIA was developed in order to provide decision makers with an understanding of the environmental consequences of a proposed development. It provides information on the nature and extent of impacts arising from the construction and operation of proposed projects. This is presented in environmental reports that contain information required by the EIA directives. These required information may include; a description of the proposed project, an outline of main project alternatives, description and assessment of aspects of environment likely to be significantly affected by the proposed development and a description of measures established to manage significant adverse effects on the environment.
A key element of EIA is to provide adequate description of the current environment condition, otherwise referred to as baseline assessment. They are often referred to as the environmental setting, existing conditions, affected environment, background environment, environmental conditions, environmental receptors, and baseline data (Shepherd, 2006, Canter 1996, Eccleston, 2001). The need for its consideration in EIA is a topic raised by several researchers (Wood 2003, Glasson et al., 2005, Carroll and Turpin 2009, Lawrence 2003, Morris and Therivel 2009, Wathern, 1992). For them baseline can be regarded as the main support for the EIA process, which identifies existing environmental conditions and relevant potential areas that may be affected by a proposed project. The importance of baseline is also manifested in EU regulations. It is moreover set in EIA directives (schedule 4, part 11) that the current environmental conditions of the study area, its possible future evolution and technical deficiencies/ limitation experienced while carrying out the study should be reported in an environmental statement.
Studies (Wathern 1992, Glasson et al., 2005; Andre et al., 2004, Wood, 2007) revealed that despite its roles and benefits in the EIA process, the aspects of baseline considered remains substandard. Questions on the definition, methodology, specific aspects to be considered, remain an issue.
1.2 Contextual review
Baseline is a preliminary step in the EIA process which is implemented in the UK through the Town and Country planning (SI 1999 N0 293) Regulations 1988 and the subsequent 1999, 2000, 2006, 2008 amendments. Theories have revealed though it is recognized that collection of appropriate and sufficient, baseline data can be time consuming and expensive. In spite of this, the value of this information can produce a significant outcome on the quality of the overall EIA process.
1.3 The research
This research intends to address the subject of baseline in EIA process. It will look specifically at the influence of baseline on the EIA process. It begins by describing the origins and principle of EIA with particular reference to its legislative beginnings, secondly, the issue of good quality baseline and effectiveness of EIA is discussed, research approach is then outlined and the findings of the studies are presented and analysed. The findings of the research are considered in comparison with the literature, with reference to its more substantive purposes before drawing conclusions and possible recommendations.
Moreover, there has been limited investigation to date on baseline and how it influences the out come of EIA process in practice. It is therefore expected that this dissertation would add to the knowledge on baseline and make recommendations on baseline implementation in EIA process.
Overall aim is:
To determine how baseline influence EIA process decision making and promote the importance of baseline in EIA process.
1.5 Research questions and Hypothesis
In order to pursue the aim identified above, a set of research questions have been developed which when answered enable the research aims to be achieved. Responding to this question is the focus of the dissertation.
Questions to be answered include:
How are baseline currently addressed in ES?
Does adequate baseline study influence EIA decision making process?
For this research the hypothesis has been formulated that:
“Good baseline quality contributes to effectiveness of the EIA process”
The formulation of this hypothesis was influenced by the EIA regulation requirement for baseline information and also limited knowledge on baseline influence in EIA decision making process.
1.5 Dissertation structure
Based on the research aims and hypothesis the structure of the dissertation is divided into seven chapters and is set as follows:
Chapter 1: Introduction
The dissertation begins with an introductory part to set out an overview of EIA process, explaining how the baseline fits into the EIA process. The research aim is then identified and hypothesis is formulated and justified for the purpose of this research. A brief summary of the research approach and contents of subsequent chapters are then revealed.
Chapter 2: Methodology
This chapter outlines the research methodology, the parameters of the literature search, selection of relevant information and research limitations. Provides details of evaluation framework developed to analyse the chosen environmental statements, relevant planning files and interview approach and structure.
Chapter 3: Background
Following the methodology, this chapter sets out a literature review as the backbone of this research. The structure of the literature review is based on EIA and baseline. It starts by examining the concept of EIA and it various steps; attention is based more on how baseline fits into the overall EIA process.
Chapter 4: Criteria for effective EIA process and good practice baseline
This chapter sets out the first stage of the methodology. It explores the terms used in developing the research hypotheses i.e. effective EIA and good quality baseline in order to develop a checklist for the review. This was achieved by information from various researchers who have studied EIA effectiveness and good practice baseline and also notes from existing guidance documents and existing EIA/EIS review criteria.
Chapter 5: Presentation of result and analysis
This chapter Outlines presentation of results and analysis of the interviews and reviews of EISs. Details on results and findings of the 3 research are then discussed, linking the theoretical perspectives and frameworks discussed to that of practice.
Chapter 6: Conclusion
Finally, the conclusion is drawn whilst connecting the research hypothesis and literature review to the content of the dissertation, limitation is outlined and recommendations are drawn.
Appendices: Relevant appendices of supporting information follow a bibliography of information sources. Appendix A lists acronyms used in this research,
Appendix B lists EIA directive requirements of information to be presented on the ES. Appendix C lists the summary of the four statements reviewed, a summary of the interview together with their individual responses are attached as appendix D. A summary of the findings of the review are then attached as appendix E.
1.7 Relevance of the research topic to course of study
The course of study Environmental assessment and management deals with natural resource management and planning. Specifically, management of the environment and project coordination.
EIA was introduced as an environmental management tool its purpose and principle plays an important role in planning system of UK environment. It involves assessment of a specific environment to identify impacts and develop measures of controlling the impacts that may occur as a result of a proposed development in order to enhance the environment. Baseline is an initial step in the EIA. There have been numerous questions on how EIA achieves its primary purposes. In this case, it is important to evaluate baseline which is one of the initial steps to highlight how it helps achieve its purposes.
In general, the course aims to provide student with an understanding of principles methods and procedure in EAM. EIA is central to environment assessment and management. Hence, it is evident that the research topic is relevant to the course of study and it’s proposed aim is expected to be achieved.
In summary, the EIA regulation indicates that the data required for any project which is likely to generate significant environmental effects must be assessed and stated in an environmental statement. In addition, the influence of baseline on outcome of EIA is limited. This research sets out to address this issue. For this purpose, research aim and hypothesis have been developed, to set out research questions in order to identify a focus of the research. A methodology adopted for this purpose is exposed in the next chapter. Drawing generalization from research investigation and providing information for subsequent replication of studies, suggestions are made about the types of information to include when describing baseline conditions in this research.