Is Sustainability Dead?


Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was set up as advocating organ in charge of the biophysical environment largely concerning the creation of decisions of various projects. On the other hand, Strategic Environment Assessment (SEA) emerged with a more or less the same intention for the strategic level form of proposals. Trends developed in an attempt to integrate these organs in recent times, predominantly in the aspect of Sustainability Assessment (SA) which revealed that both economic, as well as the social facet, are currently considered at equally the same level with the environmental aspect, in the processes described as impact assessment. However, there are signs that the development might all over sudden do a favor to trade-offs in the social-economic sector, and this may lead to extensive environmental impacts.

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Sustainable appraisal and the way it relates to strategic environment assessment

A sustainability appraisal known as a systematic procedure performed in the process of a local plan preparation. The role of the sustainable appraisal is to promote or encourage sustainable development through the assessment of the level at which the rising plan, when evaluated against the reasonable options, will aid in achieving relevant social objectives as well as economic and environmental objectives. States that this procedure is basically a chance to evaluate the manner in which plans may contribute to betterments of the environmental conditions, social and the economic conditions. Sustainability appraisal is also a means through which identification and mitigation of any potentially unfavorable effects the plot might be having. By doing so, the sustainability appraisal ensures the proposals noted in the plan are the most suitable in the presence of other alternatives. The sustainability appraisal can be employed in testing the evidence that is underpinning this plan and assist in demonstrating the manner in which soundness tests are attained. This process ought to be used as an iterative procedure informing the advancements of the local plot.

The sustainability appraisals incorporate the requirements of the Environmental Impact Assessment and the Strategic Environment Assessment

Sustainability appraisals guarantee that potential environmental outcomes are awarded complete considerations alongside the economic and the social issues. SEA alone can be essential in some circumstances where the sustainability appraisal is less required. Indicate that sustainability appraisal and SEA are instruments in plan development phase employed to evaluate the probable effects of this plan if judged against some reasonable alternatives. Sustainability appraisal is not necessary when SEA is opted in certain exceptional circumstances, for instance, the neighborhood plans could be having important effects on the environment.

Sustainable Development

This is a significant rationale for the prevailing practices. Based on present conceptualization, planning in the backup of the sustainable development appears to be less compatible with the communicative paradigm as stated by. However, it has been presented to compose of prearranged processes with goal setting, identifying an alternative, assessing and making decisions, as well as monitoring and participating in stages.

The Way Forward

Suggestions have been developed on the manner to motivate and improve the debate on SEA practice and theory. Suggested that the debate should actually redirect its key focus back to the query as to whether SEA was applied. Also, there was suggestion that improved and precise guidance were required on the procedure to be followed in running of SEA in specific situations.

In addition to being an instrument for environmental management, the EIA also strengthens the environmental management procedures. In the 1990's this organ was highly applied in the planning systems that later became so dominated by this sustainability agenda. In this very context, prominence widens out, and various issues were incorporated which went beyond limits of discrete development assignments, for instance the cumulative effects and the impacts as a result of trans-boundary and also strategic levels kind of impacts. Indicates that widespread indulgence of the public and the some other organs caused an enormous attention in social impacts as well as various other aspects affecting the well-being of persons. Some other specialist branches did emerge involving the assessment impact, such as the SIA (Social Assessment Impact), there was also the Health Impact Assessment (HIA) among others.

In this general climate to integrate several subjects in the impact assessment, the narrow abilities for the EIA, which is project based, to consider various factors was highly seen as weakness. It appears very clear, developments are based mainly on perceived gain as a result of the social-economic impact, this mostly happens at an environmental cost. Indicate that the range of both EIA and the SEA to pro-actively direct to an affirmative advancement of environmental impacts has been seen to be rather limited, and attention tend to be minimizing the impacts. Associated development in the impacts of the environment characterizes a movement far from the worldwide sustainability conditions. However, this impact has not damaged the presence of these organs, though there is a quandary in the manner we try to implement sustainable growth, which is rather imprecise and has no real relations with the factual outcomes.

A range of various solutions in an attempt to integrate separate substantive sustainability components in planning should be identified. Perhaps the closest and most significant approach is to come up with sustainability criteria that stem from elementary sustainability principles. Instead of treating the social elements and the economic ones as well as the environmental aspects as separate pillars, the move forward is to begin from sustainability principles that are highly intended to bring out the changes that are required in the human arrangements as well as activities meant to spearhead sustainable behaviors. Assessment processes have to be based on the goals by which sustainable growth could be defined from, and this is necessary since the pillar approach appear to pitch both the environmental and the economic one as a basement of warring houses. In this manner, states it is directed that minimal threshold heights are laid down for the economic and other criteria mentioned. There is a win-lose battle against the hypothetical lowest threshold at which the trade-offs have to conform to the integration of the decision making and for the development to be categorized as sustainable. Beyond these limits, some set of criteria is rather unduly endorsed or unduly demoted against the rest.

A vital requirement for efficient integration is arguably transparency. Point out that the trade-offs has to be transparent and run by a procedure of decision implementation rather than by the instrument being employed. Equally, while advocating for SA approach, when an assessment is undertaken in an aggregate, an existing trade-off between various aspects is concealed. Deterioration in value for the life of various social groupings may not end up being apparent thus impending unsustainable effects of the environment may set undetected. Rather than concentrate on detached environmental and the social elements as well as the economic one in an integrated SA or the SEA processes, a process has to be advocated whereby sustainability measures and principles are motivating considerations. The objective of the assessment is to look for positive impacts in the principles and over a long period.

There are some laid down procedural requirements to make sure the SA is effective. Some include; explicit involvement to sustainability goal and use of sustainability based measures. There is also a compulsory justification of the idea, and finally, provisions for the intelligibility as well as effective people's indulgence in the entire process.

This essay has outlined a valid apprehension that the attempt to integrate the performance of SA and SEA as an organ is leading to looking down upon the depiction of the environment concerns as regard in the process of creating decisions laid down over nearly three decades the EIA has been in service. The urgency of protecting the environment is equally significant, if not greater than the way it was at the time EIA was established. Specify that it is highly alarming realizing that the practitioners of impact assessment nowadays are facilitating the risk of the major instrument that is available for the task of environment advocacy in a genuine manner. There is an acknowledgment that prevailing debates concerning the kind of sustainability assessment mostly in the theoretical literature provide encouragement that an indisputable SA process is highly possible to come up with, though, it may take a long time for such a progression to take full effect and acquire legitimacy. Until we inscribe a legitimate as well as an environmentally strong sustainability assessment in a rigid framework, practitioners shouldn't give up on their services, this would enable the environment to be cared for and well managed in a more sustainable manner.

Sustainability appraisal in various countries

If major countries can be studied for instance the UK, experiences with appraisal application in land use, the waste as well as resource advancements plan creation, dates in early 90's. Whereas at first environmental appraisal was employed to concentrate on entirely biophysical factor in those days, the economic and the social elements have largely been included in the course of action. As consequence, the appraisals widely perceived as sustainability appraisals. Though, of late it has been regarded as integrated appraisal. The trend to amalgamation or assimilation has greatly developed, specifically as a result of the emergence of sustainability appraisal for the Regional Planning Guidance and the creation of ideas for making the government more modern. Presently, the main objective of sustainability appraisal is highly understood as bringing a better integration and making the economic and both the environmental and social aspect to be at par. Indicate that some cautious measures have been applied by the state and are based on; Government's feeble elucidation of sustainable growth with the economic boom being at the center of the state's sustainable growth strategy. It is also based on the agenda of ‘modernizing the government' as the chief driver of the integration where the environment does not appear. Also, it is based on the initial observations of the local as well as regional level practice.

Presently, various localities do compete for some inward investments. It is rather doubtful as to whether a balancing occurrence brought by sustainability appraisal may bring recommendations that are not favorable to the inward investment though this would lead to enormous environmental benefits. In various parts of the country where the major economic decline was experienced and high cases of unemployment, most likely this would not happen. Specify that it is evident that local and the regional sustainable growth strategies included more aspects of the social and economic element, proportionally speaking, highly at the expense of the environmental one. With the earlier interpretation on sustainability appraisal of Regional Planning Guidance (RPG), this had a small impact largely due to an inadequate integration of plan development and assessment procedures.


This discussion has arguably indicated that the prevailing SA practice does not meet the rules for the trade-offs and also the process requirement entirely. It is, therefore, with great conviction that the SA as presently applied is not appropriate to regard it an effective instrument in support of environmentally sustainable decisions.

Up until the power affiliations are put in place in a manner that will aid integration in a manner that will sustain the environment, the practitioners are directed not to relinquish or ignore the benefits that have emerged from the more than thirty years of EIA service. So the conclusion is that in this world we are living. Currently, nothing is quite wrong with the environmental advocacy, and people should continue relying on the services of both EIA and SEA as effective as ever so as to offer protection to the environment. Sustainability assessment is highly promoting the current economic agendas. However, certain clauses need to be met before considering sustainable assessment can be regarded truly sustainable. But this does not call for the practitioners to give up on these services offered.

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