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Strategic Environmental Assessment: A Rapidly Evolving Approach

Dalal-Clayton D.B., Sadler B. (1999): Strategic Environmental Assessment: A Rapidly Evolving Approach. Environmental Planning Issues No.18, International Institute for Environment and Development, London.

Strategic environmental assessment (SEA) has emerged in the last few years as a term for tools which aim to integrate environmental considerations into proposed laws, policies, plans and programmes. However, in one form or another, SEA has been in place for some time. 

The preparation of legislative and programmatic Environmental Impact Statements has been an integral element of US practice under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) 1969. Other SEA-type approaches reflect an extension of Environmental Impact Assessment Trends (EIA) trends, including area-wide and regional assessments, and policy-level reviews as part of public inquiries and environmental reviews.

This paper is an evaluative discussion of SEA, in which the authors conclude that SEA theory is in need of rethinking. Included are the principles of SEA, its benefits and constraints, an assessment of the scope of SEA and a comparison of SEA with EIA. The rationale for SEA of policies, plans and programmes are divided into three main categories, each of which is addressed in the paper: strengthening project EIA; advancing the sustainability agenda; and addressing cumulative and large-scale effects. Because most formal provisions for SEA have been made in industrialised countries, the examples of SEA arrangements detail the provisions, procedures and responsibilities for Northern countries.

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