7-3 Approaches to Mitigation

Depending on the timing of the project cycle and the nature of impacts, a number of approaches can be taken to achieve the objectives of mitigation.

These include:

  • developing environmentally better alternatives to the proposal;
  • making changes to project planning and design;
  • carrying out impact monitoring and management; and
  • compensating for impacts by
    • monetary payment
    • in kind measures
    • site remediation bonds
    • a resettlement plan.

Developing better alternatives

The development of alternatives to a proposed project is part of a comprehensive approach to mitigation. A broad range of alternatives can be generated at the earliest stages of project planning and design, when the process is still flexible (see Topic 5 -Scoping). At the later stages of project design, it is more realistic to identify feasible alternatives to the proposal. For example, impacts may be avoided or reduced by a reconsideration of the site or design alternatives and identifying the best practicable environmental option.

Making changes to project planning and design

Early consideration of environmental factors and impacts in project planning and design facilitates impact avoidance and minimisation. This requires coordination of the engineering, planning and EIA teams to:

  • address the likely impacts throughout the life cycle of the project, including decommissioning; and
  • identify the best practicable ways and means of mitigating them.

In practice, the elements of mitigation and the measures identified for a proposal will be tailored to the major impacts and the environment and community affected. A list of potential impacts for an extensive range of project types and suggested design measures to mitigate them can be found in Volumes 2 and 3 of the World Bank Environmental Assessment Sourcebook and its various Updates. For example, almost all development proposals involve disturbance of the land surface. This is usually extensive for major linear projects (roads, pipelines), dams and reservoirs, and large-scale agriculture, forestry and housing schemes. Environmental impacts of particular concern can include drainage of wetlands, conversion of natural areas, or expansion into areas that are vulnerable to natural hazards.

The general considerations to be taken into account when mitigating the environmental impacts of housing schemes are described in the table below. Specific measures that can be applied in planning and design of dams and reservoirs to avoid or reduce their impact are identified following the example provided. Looking ahead, the potential impacts of climate changes may have to be considered in mitigation planning and design, for example to address increased or reduced precipitation or inundation or saline influx into coastal areas as a result of a 1m rise in sea level.

Further details of measures for mitigating the impacts of different types of projects are provided at Mitigation Measures in the EIA Wiki.

Mitigation of large scale housing projects
Major adverse impacts Mitigating measure
Source: adapted from the World Bank, 1991
Displacement of existing land uses
  • Ensure that due consideration is given to the proper trade-offs between land values for housing and those of other uses, such as prime farmland, forests or natural habitats of value to society as a whole.
  • Review existing planning and design standards to ensure that they are suited to local conditions and not unnecessarily wasteful of land.
  • Make any necessary changes, for example by drafting new regulations.
Destruction of environmentally critical areas
  • Ensure that regionally critical environmental sites, such as forested areas, major bodies and wetlands, habitats containing rare and endangered species, etc., are identified and not threatened by project location.
  • Identify mitigation measures to avoid, reduce or compensate for environmental impacts and to enhance the environmental and community benefits of the proposal.

A case example of mitigation measures are available at Seco River Dam in the EIA Wiki

Carrying out impact monitoring and management

Mitigation measures are implemented as part of impact management. This process is accompanied by monitoring to check that impacts are ‘as predicted’. When unforeseen impacts or problems occur, they can require corrective action to keep them within acceptable levels, thereby changing the mitigation measures recommended in an EIA or set out in an environmental management report (described later in this topic). Further information on monitoring and implementation can be found in Topic 11 – Implementation and follow up.

In some cases, it may be necessary to establish or strengthen impact management systems to facilitate the implementation of mitigation measures during project construction and operation. These supporting actions should be identified as part of the environmental management plan. They can include the establishment of an environmental management system (EMS) based upon ISO 14000 guidelines for strengthening particular arrangements for impact management. Any other supporting actions to implement these measures, such as training and capacity building, should also be specified.

The management of social impacts associated with the influx of a temporary workforce and additional population will require specific mitigation measures. These include the provision of:

  • improved transport, water and sewage infrastructure;
  • expanded social and health care services, including measures to target
  • specific impacts;
  • better support and counseling services to cope with socio-economic
  • changes; and
  • additional recreational areas and facilities, including full replacement
  • of any areas lost to development.

Compensating for impacts

Monetary compensation

Traditionally, compensation has meant payment for loss of land or amenity resulting from a proposal. This approach can be appropriate in certain circumstances; for example, when private property must be expropriated to make way for a road or other public infrastructure project, or land owners are paid rent or lump sum compensation for access to or use of their property to drill for sub-surface resources. In addition, compensation packages, containing a range of offsets, may be negotiated with affected communities. These may include a direct monetary payment or a capital investment by the proponent.

Site remediation bonds

Recently, attention has also focused on problems of contaminated land and the requirements for site remediation. Where this is a potential issue, mitigation measures should be directed at both prevention of contamination and provision for clean up during decommissioning. Because of the time period, project ownership may change or the proponent may be unable to complete the mitigation plan for other reasons. As insurance, a bond system can be used to ensure that sufficient funds will be available for the required mitigation.

Resettlement plans

Special considerations apply to mitigation of proposals that displace or disrupt people. Certain types of projects, such as reservoirs and irrigation schemes and public works, are known to cause involuntary resettlement. This is a contentious issue because it involves far more than re-housing people; in addition, income sources and access to common property resources are likely to be lost.

Almost certainly, a resettlement plan will be required to ensure that no one is worse off than before, which may not be possible for indigenous people whose culture and lifestyle is tied to a locality. This plan must include the means for those displaced to reconstruct their economies and communities and should include an EIA of the receiving areas. Particular attention should be given to indigenous, minority and vulnerable groups who are most at risk from resettlement.

In kind compensation

When significant or net residual loss or damage to the environment is likely, in kind compensation is appropriate. As noted earlier, environmental rehabilitation, restoration or replacement have become standard practices for many proponents. Now, increasing emphasis is given to a broader range of compensation measures to offset impacts and assure the sustainability of development proposals. These include impact compensation ‘trading’, such as offsetting CO2 emissions by planting forests to sequester carbon.

March 1, 2007 Uncategorized — @ 5:08 am

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