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close this bookConducting Environmental Impact Assessment in Developing Countries (United Nations University, 1999, 375 p.)
close this folder9. Emerging developments in EIA
close this folder9.3 Sectoral environmental assessment
View the document(introduction...)
View the document9.3.1 Need for SEA
View the document9.3.2 Differences between project level EIA and SEA
View the document9.3.3 Methodologies for SEA
View the document9.3.4 Status of SEA
View the document9.3.5 Effectiveness of SEA

9.3.5 Effectiveness of SEA

Like EIA, SEA faces a number of important political and institutional barriers, in fact more so since setting policies is a political issue. Currently, SEA processes vary considerably. They may be formal or informal, comprehensive or more limited in scope, and closely linked with or unrelated to either policy or planning instruments. As shown in Table 9.7, in some cases SEA has been introduced as a relatively separate, distinct process (e.g., in Canada) or, as in the UK, incorporated into more integrated forms of environmental policy appraisal.

Table 9.6 Key considerations in choosing SEA techniques

1 Will this technique or approach help achieve the objectives of this step of the process? What is the best technique at this stage for:

• identifying linkages?
• estimating and forecasting effects and consequences?
• assessing significance?

2 Does the magnitude and potential significance of the impacts warrant the level of effort required by the technique?

• cost?
• timing?
• involvement of key personnel?
• involvement of peers, outside experts, and public stakeholders?

3 Is it possible and practical to utilize the techniques under consideration?

• are peers, experts, and stakeholders available and willing to participate?
• do adequate and reliable data exist?

4 Are there any other factors that may influence selection of approaches and techniques?

• structures of confidentiality?
• skill levels and capacity to design and implement given techniques?
• personal preferences of parties involved?

Table 9.7 Summary of the SEA situation in various countries



Federal USA

1969 Act provides clear legal provisions for SEA.

SEA practice developing steadily: several hundred programatic EISs prepared


1971 Act interpreted to include provisions for SEA.

SEA practice developing steadily especially in regard to land-use plans (several hundred plan EISs prepared)

United Kingdom

No formal requirement for SEA. Guidance on environmental appraisal of both central government policy and of local land-use plans exist. Little practice.


Non-legislated SEA process applies to cabinet proposals. SEA research and guidance commissioned but little practice.

Commonwealth of Australia

1974 Act provides powers to undertake SEA but no SEA reports prepared to date. Commitment to undertake SEA of policies and programmes in future.

Western Australia

Australia 1986 Act provides clear legal provisions for SEA. SEA practice developing, with a small number of SEA reports prepared.

New Zealand

1991 Act requires SEA of certain regional and local policies and plans to be undertaken. Some guidance but little practice.

Eventually, in order to make SEA effective, the following courses of actions may need to be considered:

• increasing the general understanding of SEA; for example, the types of actions to which SEA could usefully be applied and its relation to existing EIA and sustainable development policies;

• clarifying procedural issues; for example, at which decision points in a planning process should SEA be applied, and how should SEA findings be integrated with other policy and planning considerations in decision-making?

• clarifying methodological issues by adapting existing EIA methods for SEA use;

• strengthening the capacity for the practical application of appropriate SEA methods; for example, undertaking trial runs adapting existing methods (including EIA methods) for SEA, diffusing examples of good SEA practice, preparing SEA guidance, and providing training in its use;

• reviewing existing environmental data sources to assess their potential use in SEA and prioritizing measures for correcting any deficiencies.

SEA, if implemented judiciously and at the appropriate level in the various planning processes, would establish itself as a cost-effective tool of environmental management.