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1. Introduction

1.1 General
1.2 Scope, purpose and use of the guidelines
1.3 Nature and purpose of environmental impact assessment (EIA)

1.1 General

Environmental planning, including the assessment of the environmental impact of development projects, is gradually being introduced in the developing countries. Far from being a luxury that only industrialized countries can afford, environmental planning la increasingly recognized as an essential adjunct to economic and technical evaluations of projects (Walter and Ugelow, 1979). Lack of concern for the environmental consequences of large development projects has proved costly. In the case of ill-conceived forestry and agricultural projects, the most dramatic and universal impact is the loss of soil productivity, particularly in the humid Tropics. For this and other reasons, tropical high forest has often been described, with some justification, as a non-renewable resource.

Other examples of costly environmental degradation, with or without a forestry component, include the conversion of forest lands to wasteland dominated by persistent weeds such as Imperata cylindrica in Southeast Asia, the rapid silting of reservoirs in poorly managed Andean watersheds, the spread of bilharzia by irrigation in the Nile basin, the invasion of the Kariba reservoir by aquatic plants that interfere with fisheries, and the collapse of fisheries in the eastern Mediterranean after the closure of the Aswan High Dam.

There is also growing awareness in the developing countries, as there is elsewhere, that environmental planning, with its emphasis on the evaluation of alternative locations and development methods, improves the overall quality of development planning. Environmental review of projects prevents not only environmental degradation, but also construction errors and faulty economic analysis.

Aside from the intrinsic difficulties of resource use in the tropics, a number of institutional developments, both in the developing countries and elsewhere, are also providing the impetus for introducing environmental impact assessment (EIA) and other forms of environmental planning. One development is the establishment of regulatory agencies concerned with the environment in developing countries. Thus, whereas at the time of the Stockholm UN Conference on the Environment in 1972, 11 such countries had environmental regulatory bodies, by 1979 the number had risen to 87 (Bassow, 1979). It can be assumed that a growing number of these countries will eventually require systematic assessment of the environmental impact of development projects. Papua New Guinea is an example of a country that has taken steps in this direction by means of the environmental legislation introduced in 1978. Some of this legislation was aimed specifically at forestry projects and their potential impact.

Pressure to include explicit and systematic review of the environmental consequences of development projects is also coming from international funding and other agencies, from individual donor countries, and from international scientific and conservation bodies.

In view of the resource-management problems and institutional developments described above, FAO, as the UN agency responsible for promoting the rational management of the world's forests, has prepared the present Guidelines as part of its series of Conservation Guides. The Guidelines are intended to fill a gap in the growing literature on environmental planning for a publication devoted specifically to the environmental assessment of forestry projects in developing countries.

The Guidelines were written primarily to assist environmental and other officials in developing countries who wish to institute a system of environmental review of forestry projects. For this reason, the Guidelines have included, wherever possible, procedural or institutional options, the merits or demerits of which may depend on the circumstances of a particular national or sub-national jurisdiction.

The Guidelines were also intended for the planners or proponents of forestry projects - whether in the public or private sector, in the host country or as a part of aid missions - who have to meet the requirements of regulatory agencies or of funding agencies regarding the environmental review of projects. More generally, the Guidelines are designed to assist any forestry planner who wishes to expand the scope of his planning to include broad environmental concerns. The specific uses foreseen for the Guidelines are described in detail below.

1.2 Scope, purpose and use of the guidelines

The Guidelines apply to all forestry activities and their environmental impacts, except for the operation of pulp and paper mills. Guidelines concerning the impact of these mills (primarily the generation of liquid, solid cod gaseous wastes) are being prepared separately. Forestry activities include logging, the clearing of forests for agriculture, construction or forest roads and other infrastructure needed to support forestry operations, log transport by land and water, re- and afforestation, tree-clearing for disease control, saw-milling, charcoal-making and other transformation of wood (other than pulping and papermaking) and other activities that involve, at some point, the removal or the addition of forest cover and other physical impact on the landscape. Thus excluded are administrative activities such as the evaluation of forest resources or the strengthening of educational facilities in the forestry sector.

There are, of course, non-forestry activities (eg., damming of rivers and flooding of reservoirs many types of agricultural projects, the siting of industrial plants with toxic emissions) that also affect forests and forest lands. The present Guidelines might be in part relevant to the planning for these activities as well.

Geographically, the Guidelines apply to all the forests of the developing world. This means primarily the forests between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, ranging from tropical moist forest in the permanently wet tropics "Af" climate of the Koeppen scheme) to lowland deciduous forest to montane evergreen forest. However, the Guidelines also apply to Mediterranean sclerophytic evergreen forest, montane coniferous forest in, say, the Himalayas, and to other temperate-zone forests. The Guidelines emphasize the tropical moist forest because of its importance, inherent fragility and the current economic demands made on it.

The purpose and intended use of the Guidelines are:

1. Assist the forestry, environmental and other officials of developing countries who wish to integrate explicit environmental concerns into forestry planning; the Guidelines call attention to the regulatory options available, and outline the possible contents of the various documents used to assess environmental impact; the Guidelines also list potential impacts of forestry projects as well as sources of environmental information.

2. Assist the authors of forestry project documents who need to decide the scope and nature of the environmental planning required.

3. Assist forestry planners or host country regulatory agencies who wish to conduct a preliminary assessment of environmental impact with the aid of a checklist especially designed for forestry projects.

4. Assist those authors of detailed feasibility studies of forestry projects who have to submit detailed environmental impact reports in conjunction with cost-benefit analyses and technical evaluations to host country regulatory agencies or to bi-or multilateral funding agencies.

5. Assist environmental regulatory bodice in those jurisdictions where those bodies assume the responsibility for preparing detailed environmental impact reports.

6. In general, provide public and private forestry officials with checklists of the potential consequences of forestry activities, especially large-scale deforestation in the humid tropics.

The Guidelines envisage EIA as a step-wise procedure, with the more formal and complex steps reserved for those cases where it is clear that forestry activities will have serious environmental consequences, or where the nature of these consequences is not predictable from casual inspection. In many cases, screening or preliminary impact assessment will be sufficient to determine that the consequences are acceptable, or sufficient to modify the project so as to make it environmentally acceptable (cf. CILSS, 1979).

1.3 Nature and purpose of environmental impact assessment (EIA)

1.3.1 EIA vs. routine environmental protection
1.3.2 Difficulties of EIA in developing countries

Man's impact on trio environment, and his efforts to prevent or mitigate this impact, have a long history. In particular, countries with a long tradition of land-use planning have long been concerned with the prevention or reduction of detrimental impacts by means of planning permits or dents, of such permits. Some forestry law has also been for a long time good conservation law, often with implied EIA (Alhéritière, 1979). However, EIA is new to the extent that it represents a systematic, explicit assessment of the actions of economic development and their environmental consequences (cf. Alhéritière, 1979).

In addition, EIA uses methodologies of impact prediction and administrative procedures that were not used by traditional land-use planning or forestry. Formal EIA implies, for example, the adoption of now institutional arrangements for the preparation and review of impact reports. There is a strong presumption in EIA that the design and execution of large projects are or should be open to independent scrutiny, and more open to modification on the basis of environmental considerations and of the expressed wishes of the people affected by projects than has been the case until now. EIA also relies, conceptually as well as methodologically, on the science of ecology, which until recent decades was relatively unknown outside scientific circles. In terms of analytical and predictive theory, ecology is still at an early stage of development; for example, the foundations of ecosystems analysis were laid as late as the 1940s. EIA thus relies on a "young" science.

EIA is an aid to decision making, ideally on a par with cost-benefit analysis technical evaluation of development projects. It is not the purpose of EIA to impede economic development nor to serve as the principal means for preserving undisturbed natural settings. EIA is designed to alert the decision maker, the regulatory agencies and the public of the environmental consequences of projects so that those projects can be modified, if need be, to prevent environmental deterioration, to avoid construction errors and to forestall economic losses caused by negative side effects. EIA should also be used to maximize benefits as well, primarily by considering alternatives that might lower the costs of construction, operation or of environmental protection.

EIA is a "show-cause" procedure that tries to balance economic, technical and environmental factors and associated costs. For this reason, the selection of alternative project areas, which lies at the core of EIA, in not made on environmental grounds alone. For example, the selection of alternatives in EIA might have to weigh economic factors such as the revenue from and the costs of a logging operation, technical factors such as the relative difficulty or logging and log-hauling, and environmental factors like the relative risk of soil erosion, the relative density of endangered animals, and the presence/absence of burial grounds in the various project areas.

Similarly, if EIA delays or stops a project it is because environmental costs far outweigh economic or technical benefits, and not just because certain environmental impacts will occur. For example, EIA might recommend the cancellation of a forestry project if this project will inevitably destroy the spawning grounds that support a commercial fishery that yields more revenue and employs more people over A longer period of time than the forestry project.

The calculation given above becomes, of course, more difficult if the fishery is a subsistence one for which there are no revenue figures, or if the trade-off is between a forestry project and the risk of losing plant and animal species that have at present no commercial value (cf. Myers, 1979). It must be stressed, therefore, that EIA, and especially decision making based on impact reports, inevitably places a premium on judgement, vision and often statesmanship. Whether in the developed or the developing world, there are no EIA procedures that eliminate completely the need to exercise sound judgement and to make difficult decisions.

As noted earlier, EIA offers the advantage of acting as a cross-check on technical and economic planing. For example, EIA, which usually requires a more thorough terrain analysis than would normally be the case, has been known to prevent construction and other technical flaws. EIA forges economic analysis to consider externalities, such as future pollution abatement as people migrate in, silting of reservoirs, or even such esoteric indirect effects as the displacement of herbivores by forestry and their damage to agricultural crops. Omission of these side effects of development would obviously distort the benefit side of the economic analysis. By the same token, EIA may force the consideration of alternative sites or methods that increase benefits. Finally, an added bonus of EIA is that it provides the decision maker with yet another criterion for deciding among alternative sites, different operational or industrial methods or different scheduling of projects when other factors do not point clearly to a particular option.

1.3.1 EIA vs. routine environmental protection

The Guidelines are concerned with impact assessment, not with routine environmental protection. "Assessment" implies the identification of actions and their environmental consequences, the evaluation of alternative sites or development methods, the recommendation of preventive or remedial measures, and the prediction of residual impacts. The Guidelines are not concerned, therefore, with the operational details of routine environmental protection, such as erosion control, forest-road maintenance or logging or skidding methods. Routine methods of universal application should be described (and prescribed) in separate operational hand books. Environmental assessment is inherently site-specific, and for a particular forestry project.

As the Guidelines emphasize, there are additional practical reasons why EIA and environmental protection are two separate issues that require separate documentation. One reason is that impact reports should be as brief as possible to lighten the task of the decision maker. This goal is difficult to achieve given the complexity of impact prediction, particularly if alternative sites have to be considered. Impact reports should not be burdened, therefore, with the details of routine environmental protection. Impact reports should be able to refer to separate operational hand books for these details. Separate handbooks also mean that they can be used for more than one project. At the review stage, decision makers should concentrate on alternatives, site-specific impacts, and on the administrative courses of action open for project approval or modification. Impact reports should stress these issues, and omit as much extraneous material as possible.

EIA and routine environmental protection or restoration become, at some point, linked issues, primarily because the prediction of residual impacts rests on the assumption that certain routine mitigative measures will be applied. The Guidelines riot, therefore, areas of environmental concern for which operational guides or hand books exist, and those for which such handbooks should be prepared as a matter of priority in order to support EIA (Appendix VI). The compilation of operational hand books requires the contribution of personnel with long field experience in a particular setting, and of the inhabitants of a particular region.

1.3.2 Difficulties of EIA in developing countries

The potential difficulties of assessing the environmental impact of forestry and other projects in developing countries are fully realized. The difficulties most often cited are the scarcity or lack of trained staff and of environmental data, poor understanding of tropical ecosystems, inaccessibility of project arose, the scarcity of funds, the need to avoid delays in projects designed to raise living standards as soon as possible, the lack of institutional arrangements for preparing and reviewing impact reports, the lack of an adequate system of environmental lawn and their enforcement, and the lack of a conservation ethic on the part of some officials or private developers.

However, these difficulties, some of which are still faced by developed countries, should not be exaggerated or lead to defeatism. EIA is not necessarily more complex than the cost-benefit analyses or technical evaluations that are routinely carried out in developing countries by local personnel or aid missions. It is emphasised again that the primary purpose of EIA is to prevent environmental degradation or economic self-defeat (eg., the loss of soil productivity) that can be costly. Some form of EIA is thus desirable; the alternative of no environmental planning at all is not realistic given the demands placed on the world's resources.

As far as cost is concerned, it need not be excessive. USAID has found in two years of environmental assessment of its projects (572 in total) that the cost of EIA amounted to 0.38 percent of the total cost of all projects (Myers, 1979). During a similar period, the World Back assessed 434 projects for an additional cost of 0 to 3 percent over the total cost of the projects (Myers, 1979).

It should also be stressed that a basic benefit of EIA, oven in the most industrialized countries, is to accustom government officials, private proponents and the public to thinking in terms of all direct and indirect repercussions of development projects. This educational function of EIA more than compensates for impact reports that are often inaccurate, incomplete or too subjective. It in for this reason that the Checklist of environmental impacts included in these Guidelines (Appendix I) was made as comprehensive as possible, even though in many oases the Checklist will probably be largely irrelevant or data for some of its items are now impossible to obtain.

Finally, there are more moans available for carrying out EIA in developing countries than is often realized. More and more environmental information is available from national and international research centres or data banks (cf. Annex C). Techniques of remote sensing, using both aerial photography and satellite imagery, are being refined all the time, and these techniques are often short cuts to lengthy field data collection (cf. the Proceedings of the International Symposia on Remote Sensing of the Environment). Some aid programmes have been (eg. UNEP; USAID/Forest Service; cf. US Interagency Task Force on Tropical Forests, 1980) or could be revived to include the seconding of skilled personnel to host countries for the purpose of conducting EIA. Resources of manpower and research capabilities of developing countries are often underestimated. Many of the developing countries possess first-rate research centres and researchers familiar with tropical ecosystems. The issue is perhaps more the need to create mechanisms whereby skilled personnel can be seconded to proponents of projects or to regulatory agencies for the purpose of EIA (of Chapter 3).

Without minimizing the scientific complexity of tropical ecosystems and of ecological prediction in general, it must also be recalled that EIA is often nothing more than systematized common sense. Thus no specialized training is required to know that deep sandy soils are prone to erosion, that uncontrolled sedimentation may destroy a fishery, new roads near a game reserve may increase poaching, exposing an isolated tribe to modern ways without adequate preparation is usually disastrous, large groves of durian trees in a region known to have orang-utans may be an important habitat for those animals, clear-cutting in areas prone to massive weed invasions may prevent the regeneration of useful forest, and that geologically unusual areas (such as limestone in a predominantly granitic region) may support rare or unique floras.

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