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Impact assessment

Anthropogenic activities have the potential to impact in some way the coastal environment and tourism is not an exception. Impact assessment is a process of reviewing and evaluating the impact of any activity (such as construction of tourist facilities: hotels, lodges, public beaches, highway, etc., on the coastal environment or on the natural resources, culture, economy, etc.) Without knowing and being aware of negative environmental effects it would be impossible to plan and take any effective, reasonable measures aimed at protecting the quality of the coastal environment and human life.
The only legal tool currently applied in practice for assessing the negative environmental impacts of concrete projects is environmental impact assessment (EIA). The procedure that extends the concept and principle underlying EIA is called strategic environmental assessment (SEA).
There are some other tools and instruments used to assess impacts on the coastal environment and humans, for example, risk assessment.



Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA):

Environmental Impact Assessment is an integrative and systematic process, used for identifying the environmental effects of projects development. As a result of Directive 85/337/EEC (as amended 1997), this is now a legislative procedure within the European Union to be applied to assess the environmental effects of certain public and private projects which are likely to have significant effects on the environment. An EIA requires a scoping study to be undertaken in order to focus the assessment. This can be carried out as field or desk study depending on the nature/scale of the project.

The main objectives of EIA in the context of sustainable tourism in coastal regions are (UNDP 2003):

  • Make decision makers aware of the significant environmental effects of projects proposal
  • Outline alternatives with different environmental impacts;
  • Identify approaches on how to avoid or reduce environmental damage and other impacts on coastal regions
  • Prevent coastal degradation by requiring implementation of feasible alternatives and mitigation measures
  • Disclose to the public the reason for approval of a project with significant environmental effects
  • Foster coordination among stakeholders
  • Enchance public participation in decision-making processes

Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA):

Strategic Environmental Assessment is a high level procedure that extends the concept and principle underlying EIA, but normally applied to policies, plans, programmes and groups of projects. SEA provides the potential opportunity to avoid the preparation and implementation of inappropriate plans, programmes, projects and assists in the identification. So there is a evaluation of project alternatives and identification of cumulative effects. SEA comprises two main types: sectoral SEA (applied when many new projects fall within one sector) and regional SEA (applied when broad economic development is planned within one region).
(definition source: European Commission. 1999. Integrating environment concerns into development and economic cooperation. Draft version 1.0. Brussels Glossary) (based on UNDP 2003 and Participatory_SEA.pdf)

In the context of sustainable tourism in coastal regions the SEA process should review the following factors: existing problems (environmental and health) in a coastal region covered by the proposed strategy; goals and targets of the strategy; their links to sustainability; key alternatives to the strategy; environmental and health impacts of supposed implementation measures; and system for monitoring the potential impacts relevant to the strategy.