Wildlife & Traffic

A European Handbook for Identifying Conflicts and Designing Solutions

5 Planning Tools
Original version (2003)
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5.3 At the project planning phase (EIA)

All major projects, including infrastructure projects, are subject to EIA according to the EU Council Directive (97/11/EC of 3 March 1997).

An EIA relates to a specific project. The process ensures a detailed assessment of adverse and beneficial environmental effects for a range of alternative solutions, depending on the detail of assessments included in the SEA process, which varies between countries. The scoping process, described in Section 4.1, is the basis for the consideration of alternatives. These assessments are followed by recommendations for measures to minimise or compensate negative environmental impacts.

All environmental factors are also assessed for the situation where the project or the plan is not implemented. This is often termed the "do nothing" scenario. The future situation without the project should be described primarily for getting a reference.

The EIA is used as a basic document throughout the project planning and design phases and also as a common reference and communication tool.

5.3.1 Scope of the EIA

Assessments are made of all environmental factors, such as air, soil, surface and ground water, and take into account both physical and chemical impacts on ecosystems, flora and fauna, as well as effects on landscape and assets such as recreational value and cultural heritage. The EIA also addresses the interactions between these factors as well as the cumulative effects of separate projects or developments.

An EIA should provide at the very least:

  • A description of the project including site information, the design and scale of the project at all project phases.
  • An outline of the main alternatives explored by the developer or proposed by the public (including the "do nothing" option) and an indication of the main reasons for the choice, taking into account the environmental effects.
  • A description of measures proposed for the avoidance, mitigation and reduction of significant adverse effects on the environment.
  • A full description of the methodology and data used for the assessment, including an overview of parts of the assessment from which information is missing.
  • A non-technical summary of the assessment.

5.3.2 Parameters of the EIA

As a basis for deciding where avoidance, mitigation or compensation are needed, the following parameters are used:

  • Special areas for conservation (International sites, EU-habitat and Ramsar areas, etc.).
  • Rare and endangered fauna species (i.e. species on the IUCN red-lists).
  • Rare and endangered plant communities and vegetation types (forests, grasslands, wetlands, etc.).
  • River valleys and wetlands (the objective is to remove all obstructions from wetlands).
  • Undisturbed natural or cultural landscapes of high value.
  • Important ecological networks.
  • Dispersal corridors in areas which are already fragmented.
  • Other types of important habitats.

In addition to these factors, technical design and traffic safety play an important role in influencing decisions on avoidance and measures for mitigation and compensation. Often the EIA is carried out in tandem with the project design as an iterative process involving planners, road engineers, environmentalists and architects. The public often contributes knowledge on the local distribution of important species and habitats.

For more detailed information on planning and construction see Chapters 6 and 7.