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STRATEGIC ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT: AIR QUALITY IMPLICATIONS OF TRANSPORT POLICY IN HIMACHAL PRADESH
Ravinder N. Batta, State Transport Authority, Himachal Pradesh, India

ABSTRACT

It is generally accepted that adequate, efficient, reliable and affordable passenger and freight transport services are essential for development. However, providing these services contributes to local air pollution and to the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. As the developing countries strive to increase their energy services to improve the quality of life of their citizens and to compete effectively in the global economy, environmental concerns should be given active consideration. The current transport growth strategies that are strongly linked to economic growth do not fully acknowledge this, as the almost exclusive dependence on petroleum fuels by the transport sector has serious environmental problems with increased fuel use leading to increased air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. While the environmental concerns at the project level are addressed with the help of environmental impact assessment, at the policy, plan and program level these remain neglected. The environmental assessment of policy, plans, and programs, also known as the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is an effective tool that helps the decision-makers to promote sustainable development. It provides a systematic approach for identifying the environmental impacts of proposed projects from early in the planning process. By identifying the adverse environmental impacts before they occur, SEAs allow decision-makers to modify the design of the policies, plans and programs. The paper aims at exposing the concept of Strategic Environmental Assessment to the participants, identify its potential uses by applying the tools of SEA for evaluating the impacts of Transport Policy of Himachal Pradesh on Air quality. It is concluded that while the transport policy starts with the objective of protecting the environment, plans and programs taken up under the policy actually end up increasing air pollution.

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