Environmental impact assessment for a road construction project in Nigeria

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Impacts Identified by SIA Practitioners. SIA practitioners have the expertise to help prioritize issues using a review of literature and profes-sional experience. Often they will suggest the study of issues unrecognized by either the public or the agencies. 4. Identify Methods and Assumptions and Define Significance – Describe how the SIA is conducted, what assumptions are used and how significance is determined. The methods and assumptions used in the SIA should be made available and published prior to a decision in order to allow decision makers as well the public to evaluate the assessment of impacts (as required by NEPA). Practitioners will need to consult the CEQ Regulations. Definitions and examples of effects (direct, indirect, and cumulative) are provided in 40 CFR 1508.7 and 1508.8; “effects” and “impacts” are used synonymously. The CEQ regulations are clear that an environmental impacts statement has to focus on impacts found to be significant. Significance in terms of context and intensity considerations is defined in 40 CFR 1508.27. Context includes such considerations as society as a whole, affected regions, affected interests and locality (e.g., when considering site-specific projects, local impacts assume greater importance than those of a regional nature). Intensity refers to the dimensions presented under Scoping in Section IV, as well as consideration of health and safety, endangered species or unique human resources, precedents and laws. While these criteria are helpful in judging significance, the SIA practitioner also needs to consult individual agency procedures for NEPA compliance. Some of these list additional social impacts that the agency must consider even if not always significant. 5. Project Planners – Identify problems that could be solved with changes to the proposed action or alternatives. Provide Feedback on Social Impacts to Findings from the SIA should feed back into project design to mitigate adverse impacts and enhance positive ones. The impact assessment, therefore, should be designed as a dynamic process involving cycles of project design, assessment, redesign, and reassessment. This process is often carried out informally with project designers prior to publication of the draft assessment for public comment; public comments on a draft EIS can contribute importantly to this process of feedback and modification. 6. Use SIA Practitioners – Trained social scientists employing social science methods will provide the best results.The need for professionally qualified, competent people with social science training and experience cannot be overemphasized. An experienced SIA practitioner will know the data, and be familiar and conversant with existing social science evidence pertaining to impacts that have occurred elsewhere, which may be relevant to the impact area in question. This breadth of knowledge and experience can prove invaluable in identifying important impacts that may not surface as public concerns or as mandatory considerations found in agency NEPA compliance procedures. A social scientist will be able to identify the full range of important impacts and then will be able to select the appropriate measurement procedures. Having social scientist as part of the interdisciplinary EIS team will also reduce the probability that an important social impact could go unrecognized. In assessing social impacts, if the evidence for a potential type of impact is not definitive in either direction, then the appropriate conservative conclusion is that it cannot be ruled out with confidence. In addition, it is important that the SIA practitioner be conversant with the technical and biological perspectives brought to bear on the project, as well as t he cultural and proecdural context of the agency they work with. 7. Establish Monitoring and Mitigation Program – Manage uncertainty by monitoring and mitigation adverse impacts. Crucial to the SIA process is monitoring significant social impact variables and any programs which have been put into place to mitigate them. As indicated earlier, the identification of impacts might depend on the specification of contingencies. For example, if the in-migration of workers during the construction phase work force is 1000, then the community’s housing will be inadequate to meet the need, but if it is only 500, then the impact can be accommodated by currently vacant units. Identifying a monitoring infrastructure needs a key element of the local planning process. Two key points: a)Monitoring and mitigation should be a joint agency and community responsibility. b) Both activities should occur on an iterative basis throughout the project life cycle. Depending on the nature of the project and time horizons for completion, the focus of long-term responsibility for monitoring and mitigation is not easily defined. Research shows that trust and expertise are key factors in choosing the balance between agency and community monitoring participation. Few agencies have the resources to continue these activities for an extended period, but local communities should be provided resources to assume a portion of the monitoring and mitigation responsibilities. 8. Identify Data Source – Published scientific literature, secondary data, and primary data from the affected area. These three sources should be consulted for all SIA’s. Balance among the three may vary according to the type of the proposed action, as well as specific considerations noted below, but all three will be relevant. Published Scientific Literature

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