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Land take and the effectiveness of project screening in Environmental Impact Assessment: Findings from an empirical study

Geneletti, D., Biasiolli, A. and Morrison-Saunders, A. (2017) Land take and the effectiveness of project screening in Environmental Impact Assessment: Findings from an empirical study. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 67 . pp. 117-123.

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Land take is emerging as a global environmental concern, and is particularly critical in intensively developed and land-scarce regions. This paper seeks to understand the effectiveness of the screening stage of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in addressing land take. Screening is the stage where a decision is made as to whether an EIA is required for a project. In many jurisdictions, screening results in three pathways: full EIA directly, preliminary EIA only, or preliminary EIA followed by full EIA. We compared the land take of 217 projects triggering the different pathways in a study region in Italy over a 15-year time interval. Land take was quantified by overlaying the footprint of the projects with a land cover map.

The results show that while more attention was given to projects with larger land take impacts overall, the cumulative land take from smaller projects not triggering full EIA was considerable (40% of overall land take). The case-by-case examination conducted through the preliminary EIA was found to work better for some project types (ski areas and small urban development), than for others (quarries). Our findings lead us to advocate improvements in current screening procedures to ensure that the land take impacts are quantified and made explicit in preliminary EIA reports. Our evidence-based approach to determining land take in EIA provides a compelling basis for understanding ways to improve EIA policies, guidance and practice.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Publisher: Elsevier
Copyright: © 2017 The Authors.
United Nations SDGs: Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
Goal 15: Life on Land
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