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close this bookInitial Environmental Assessment: Urban Development - Series no 12 (NORAD, 1996)
close this folderPart II: Documentation requirements for initial environmental assessment
View the document1 Project description
View the document2 Description of the environment
View the document3 Checklist

1 Project description

As a basis for initial environmental assessment, a description of the project or activities must be available. In most cases it will be relevant to present several alternative technical solutions and localities. Activities in both the constructional phase and the operational phase of the project must be included.

This description will to a certain extent be based on the regular technical and economic description of the project, possibly after consultations with project planners or other relevant institutions in the country in question. The following questions aim to elicit information that is relevant with regard to environmental impacts. Relatively detailed information may be required with regard to production processes, use of inputs, localisation etc.. The information resulting from the initial assessment can be included in the regular project document being presented for approval. In the case of more comprehensive projects, the information may be collected in an appendix to this document.

The following specifies essential background information for an initial assessment:

a. The need for the project. Give a brief description of how the need for the project has arisen. What are the purposes of the project and who will benefit from it? Will the project cover local or regional needs? Which other activities are expected as a consequence of the project?

b. Alternatives considered. Give a brief presentation of the most important technology and localisation alternatives which have been considered in connection with the project. If possible, give a brief account of any differences in technology, building materials, need for water and energy, labour requirements, infrastructure requirements etc.. The 0-alternative (the consequences of not implementing the project) may also be relevant to consider.

c. Description of the project and potential main alternatives. Give a relatively comprehensive description of the alternative(s) that are viewed as relevant. The description should include choice of technology, operation systems, transport requirements, labour requirements, building materials, the need for water, energy and other natural resources, map reference to buildings and facilities and the areas utilised, and what types of areas these are and impacts on existing or planned activities in the area. The information should cover both the constructional and operational phase.

d. Conditions for project implementation. Give an account of the public and private physical initiatives (infrastructure, etc.) and any other external prerequisites for the implementation of the project, e.g. participation of the local population, training opportunities, maintenance, local institutional and administrative conditions, including their environmental competence. In addition all parties should be familiar with and adhere to local, national and any applicable international environmental requirements.

2 Description of the environment

Give a brief description of the natural and man-made environment in which the project is to be located. The information should normally be included in the project documents, but may also have to be supplemented through collection of information and consultations with relevant institutions, professional units, local populations, or surveys in the project area. Where appropriate, the information should also be presented in the matical maps and illustrations. Sources as well as the reliability of the presented information should be indicated briefly. The description should contain an account of:

Natural environmental conditions:

· Geology and soil conditions.
· Hydrological and hydro-geological conditions.
· Topography.
· Climate.
· Vegetation and fauna, with emphasis on:
- especially vulnerable ecosystems, and
- vulnerable and conservation-worthy animal and plant species.
· Unique and conservation-worthy natural landscapes.

Man-made environmental conditions:

· Socio-economic and socio-cultural conditions.
· Demographic conditions,
- size of affected population groups, and
- any ethnic belonging and variations.
· Current health situation,
- with special emphasis on environmentally related diseases.
· Settlement pattern and means of production,
- specified for ethnic group, class or caste, and
- division of labour organised on the basis of gender and age within the population
groups in question.
· Existing land use and utilisation of natural resources,
- also including more extensive utilisation of nature areas.
· Unique and conservation-worthy cultural landscapes or objects and buildings of historical, archaeological, architectonic, cultural, aesthetic or scientific value.
· Existing environmental problems and environmental stress,
- e.g. pollution of air, water and soil.
· Other existing or planned activities that may hold future consequences for urban development projects.

3 Checklist

The aspects included in the following checklist must be commented on. In case the problem is irrelevant, this must be substantiated. If the listed effects can be expected, their extent or degree should be estimated. Compare with Part I of this booklet if some questions should be unclear. One should be aware that questionnaire checklists like these are not always 100% adequate with regard to all the environmental questions which can be relevant to ask. It may therefore be useful to compare the use of the checklist to the use of other analytic tools for project assessment, like e.g. logical framework analysis, gender analysis, assessments of socio-cultural and socio-economic conditions, as well as assessment of choice of technology and existing institutional conditions. This approach may also be necessary to secure an integrated approach to the assessment of the project. It is necessary to specify which groups of the population will be affected by the different types of direct or indirect environmental impacts. A rough division can be as follows:

· The project's target group. This is the group of the population which one expects will benefit directly from the project. This group may, however, also be subject to certain negative environmental impacts.

· The remaining local population. This group will not benefit from the project in any primary way, although both positive and negative consequences may be experienced.

· Resettled population groups. These are groups of the population who either settle in the area or move away from it as a result of the project or the development initiated by it.

Within these three groups it may also be relevant to specify if the environmental impacts can be related to specific parts of the population, such as low-income groups, indigenous groups, etc., combined with a further specification of gender and age within these groups.