Strategic Environmental Assessment
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Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)
Since its introduction Integrated Coastal Zone Management has been a tool for implementing sustainable development in coastal areas. Although it has brought many benefits and answers to coastal issues there are some challenges that need to be considered such as the limited awareness of the relationship between socioeconomic and environmental impacts and poor levels of institutional coordination.
The high concentration of the world’s population in coastal areas has created conflicts between human and development activities and coastal ecosystems along with management difficulties. Typically, management in coastal areas has been characterized by fragmented and short-term development strategies that have failed to take into account the multiple uses occurring within the coastal environment. This has led to problems arising from the lack of understanding of the socioeconomic character of coastal environments and poor cooperation between different levels of administration and management.
Introducing Strategic Environmental Assessment
Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is process that ensures that significant environmental effects arising from policies, plans and programmes are identified, assessed, mitigated, communicated to decision-makers, and monitored and that opportunities for public involvement are provided. SEA has become an important instrument used to help to achieve sustainable development in public planning and policy making. The importance of SEA is widely recognised. Particular benefits of SEA include:
- To support sustainable development;
- To improve the evidence base for strategic decisions;
- To facilitate and respond to consultation with stakeholders;
- To streamline other processes such as Environmental Impact Assessments of individual development projects.
SEA is a generic tool which can be used in a variety of situations. A particular form of SEA is being introduced by the European Union Directive 2001/42/EC. This requires national, regional and local authorities in Member States to carry out strategic environmental assessment on certain plans and programmes that they promote .
One of the most important elements that constitute SEA is that, in contrary to past policies about coastal issues that focused on the physical environment but excluded some external factors (economic, social etc), SEA constitutes a more integrated approach, taking into account the impacts of strategic proposals on the wider environment. Apart from the holistic approach, SEA has also a certain flexibility concerning the different levels of decision making. This means that not only are the consequences of decision making explored at policy, programme and plan level but also at various stages of the planning and management hierarchy. Finally, SEA can be obtained as a very useful tool for proactive assessment providing feedback information for the formulation of policy and planning.
Steps to an SEA
- Consideration of whether the policy, plan and programme (PPP) formulation process requires SEA
- Establishment of PPP objectives and alternatives
- Identification of key impacts, indicators and environmental baseline
- Predication and evaluation of impacts and assessment of alternatives
- Consideration of mitigation measures
- Review and decision making
- Monitoring of impact of PPP on objectives 
- Barker, A. (2006) Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) as a Tool for Integration within Coastal Planning. Journal of Coastal Research, 22(4), 946-950
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