Not in my Back Yard!

01 May 2005
Even port developments in developing countries are affected by environmental assessment requirements as they are often funded by international funding agencies as a condition for the award of any grant or loan

Even port developments in developing countries are affected by environmental assessment requirements as they are often funded by international funding agencies as a condition for the award of any grant or loan

The relationship between ports that need to develop and their surrounding social and ecological environments is very often a matter for heated debate with the NIMBY factor usually to the fore.

Here Royal Haskoning makes a rational appraisal of a sensitive subject.

Throughout the world the environmental impacts of port construction and port operation are becoming more important. Environmental issues concern port development, throughout the world and appropriate consideration to these issues is essential to sustainable development. This is reinforced by the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development which identifies that the only way to have long-term social and economic progress is to link it with environmental protection.

Most countries have legislation to control the impact of development on the environment and the United Nations has produced guidance on the assessment of environmental impact for those countries that do not have local legislation.

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a process that must be followed for certain types of development, particularly large-scale development such as that necessitated by new ports, terminals and port expansion. The objective of EIA is to ensure that the likely environmental consequences of development are considered before a decision is taken to proceed with it. Ultimately, EIA gives decision makers information about the development before they decide whether to approve development consent.

The basic steps of the EIA process are common to the EIA systems used in most countries and by most international institutions. Figure 1 provides an example flowchart indicating a generalised EIA process that is reasonably typical of the EIA process applied worldwide.

Part of the assessment of environmental impact should include public consultation.

Most assessment processes include public involvement in the assessment of the impact at various stages during the assessment process. Some ports see the need for public consultation as a hindrance to development but when done properly it has advantages in the early identification of potential issues, particularly with neighbours of the port. Ports should see public consultation in a positive light and as part of their normal public relations activities.

Neighbours to ports are particularly affected by noise, dust and light pollution. It is important that ports take account of the visual aspects of their existing operations and any new developments in planning lighting schemes. The function of ports is to transfer cargo from sea to shore and this inevitably generates road and rail traffic on the shore which can create noise and congestion. The mitigation of the traffic impact of a port development will often involve construction of new roads and junctions to take traffic away from residential areas.

Increased numbers of ship arrivals will increase the emissions from ships in a particular area. This impact can be assessed and in time, the effect of various IMO agreements should reduce ship emissions even though traffic is increasing.

Ports and port users comment that the environmental assessment and consultation process takes too long. However, there is a minimum requirement for the consultation process and it is important to use this consultation positively to ensure that adverse impacts are mitigated or eliminated.

NO EASIER ELSEWHERE Each country believes that other countries have simpler and easier processes. However, Royal Haskoning's experience is that the requirements for the assessment process and consultation are fairly standard throughout the developed world. Even port developments in developing countries are affected by environmental assessment requirements, as they are often funded by international banks or other international funding agencies as a condition for the award of any grant or loan. Reference can be made to the UNEP Environmental Impact Assessment Training Manual, 2nd Edition, June 2002 for a generalised process or environmental assessment.

If ports think that the environmental impact assessment process needs to be improved, then one of the improvements would be for those involved in the development and operation of ports to familiarise themselves with the consultation process and turn it to their advantage in terms of public relations, rather than trying to carry out a minimal process which often leads to long delays in gaining consents. The message clearly is to start as early as possible in the development of a project and get on with it. After all, the purpose of the environmental impact assessment process and the public consultation requirements is to assist ports in gaining statutory consent for the additional port facilities that they require to handle cargoes efficiently. Without such consent developments are delayed to the advantage of competitor ports who appreciate the positive benefits of the process.

Finally, if a development has a major and significant impact, it cannot be wished away and ports should seriously consider whether the development that they are planning is actually appropriate for that location.

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