Perception and use of landscape concepts in the procedure of Environmental Impact Assessment; case study – Switzerland and Romania
The European Landscape Convention (ELC) sets out an internationally agreed definition of landscape, which is defined as “an area, as perceived by people, whose character is the result of the action and interaction of natural and/or human factors” . In the present paper we analyse how the concept of landscape is used in Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) and extended baseline assessments, both in Switzerland and Romania. The focus on landscape has become important particularly since the ELC was adopted. The Convention was ratified by Romania in 2002 and will come into force in Switzerland starting with June 2013. Because the aspects related to landscape are briefly presented in EIA procedure, we assessed the Romanian and Swiss experts’ perception regarding the concept of landscape and we analysed the effective use of the landscape ecology concepts and methods in EIA studies. Currently, the EIA system is used mostly to obtain environmental authorization, without reflecting the ways to achieve a sustainable development from the ecological, social and economic point of view . Most studies examine only the visual landscape, achieving subjective assessment of landscape aesthetics, without focusing on both social and ecological sub-systems . Quantitative elements or landscape related to functionality are missing and it is very difficult to evaluate whether environmental assessors are accurate regarding the analysed subject and how policies will affect land use . Our methodology relies on the comparative investigation of representative case studies of environmental impact assessment reports from Switzerland and Romania for biodiversity, industry, infrastructure and wind farm projects, as well as on following how the ELC or other national landscape policies are implemented and linked within the EIA reports . In addition, the study gathers the EIA actors’ perception (64 Romanian and 58 Swiss experts) through an online questionnaire regarding the landscape integration in the impact evaluation procedure. Our preliminary results show the difference in opinions regarding the two analysed EIA systems when referring to the use and perception of landscape concepts. In average, the knowledge of the ELC content is acquainted by almost 86% of the Romanian EIA actors and only by 29% of the Swiss experts. Furthermore, 95% of Swiss EIA actors considered that landscape should be an important chapter in the EIA reports compared to 85.9% from the Romanian part. A better link among activities, landscape ecology aspects and its impact is needed and we propose a more compelling evaluation procedure in order to improve landscape management. The proposed approach allows the dissemination of good practice examples in terms of landscape integration in EIA procedure taking into account the actual perception and use of the landscape concepts.
Keywords: Environmental Impact Assessment; European Landscape Convention; Landscape; Perception; Romania; Switzerland
Acknowledgements. The work was supported by a grant SciEx Programme NMS-CH, 12.139–Sciex-N-6.
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