How can Health Impact Assessment support Strategic Environmental Assessment Author: M. Stevanin (T.E.R.R.A. S.r.l.)

 

The management of waste and the construction of new treatment plants are very debated at public level, because of their impacts threatening health.

The so-called NIMBY syndrome (‘not in my back yard’) very often occurs  when decisions need to be taken for building waste management facilities. Environmental and health issues must therefore be integrated within urban development planning with the aim to contribute to sustainable development.

In recent years, European legislation highlights a growing awareness towards environmental and health impact assessment thus confirming the great importance of social and health implications while implementing and evaluating plans and programmes for urban development that may affect the environment and quality of life of the population.

The European SEA Directive 2001/42/EC and the SEA Protocol, defined inKievin 2003, have therefore awarded an important role to Strategic Environmental Assessment, evaluating all those plans and programmes which can produce environmental effects.

The integration of SEA and HIA would enhance and improve the systematic analysis of significant environmental effects, ensuring the overall assessment of the territorial components.

In this context, public participation plays a central role: in fact, the integration of procedures for SEA and HIA becomes feasible and effective enhancing consultation between local authorities and institutions (national and international) and reaching common decisions with relevant actors involved in the assessment process.

Currently, the issue of protecting human health is included in Annex I and II of the EU Directive 2001/42/EC.

Annex I, point f) specifies that information must be provided regarding possible significant effects on the environment, including aspects related to population and human health.

It is therefore important to collect and analyze health-related data and information in the evaluation process to ensure that protection and improvement of human health are considered appropriately.

The integration of Health Impact Assessment can be therefore a good practice for assessing effectively and efficiently consequences of urban plans and programs.

Finally, last October2013 inStrasbourgthe European Parliament adopted the report on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 2011/92/EU.

A major step that includes public participation in decision-making process and the evaluation of health effects related to urban plans and projects.

The approval of this significant law is expected by February 2014, after nearly 30 years from Directive 85/337/EEC.