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Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)

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Rapid growth and transformation in East Asia  and Pacific Region (EAP) has mounted tremendous pressure on its natural environment.  Virtually in all major EAP countries, environmental quality has deteriorated and natural resources have been degraded, often at alarming rates, over the past several decades.  Given these environmental challenges, the World Bank has been actively assisting developing countries in EAP to protect natural the environment and promoting sustainable development.  In particular, the World Bank is putting efforts to mainstream and enhance upstream environmental analysis in development process with the use of strategic environmental assessment (SEA) as an analytical tool to assist client countries in strengthening their environmental assessment and planning capacity.

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Strategic Environment Assessment (SEA) in EAP


Although the region as a whole has already had EIA practice at the project level for many years, the degree and quality of environmental assessment practices greatly varies from country to country.  Hong Kong (China ), Japan, and Korea, for example, have a well-established system and good record of applications at project, program, and plan levels.  Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Mongolia, on the other hand, are at an earlier stage and trying to build their own basic capacity.  Countries like China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnamare in-between. They have established their legal systems requiring EIA for years but they often need external assistance to improve their EIA quality and strengthen capacity. 


The SEA is an analytic and participatory approach that integrates environmental considerations into policies, plans and programs and evaluates the inter-linkags with economic and social considerations. As in many other regions in the world, SEA is a new concept to the region.  As of 2005, only Hong Kong (China ), Japan, Korea, mainland China, and Vietnamhave legal requirements, at certain extent, for SEA at national or local levels.  Most of the developing countries in EAP have just become aware of the importance of SEA and interested in technical assistance to strengthen their EIA and SEA capacity.  Meanwhile, there are growing demands for SEAs in the World Bank operations, especially in the large-scale investment projects or programs.


World Bank SEA Activity in the EAP region


To respond to the increasing demand in EAP for SEA, the World Bank has piloted a few SEAs: for instance, the hydropower SEA in Lao PDR, sectoral EA in sanitation and sewerage in metro Manila, and the SEA  of China’s western region development strategy.  Also, the World Bank (through its World Bank Institute), International Association of Impact Assessment (IAIA), and China State Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) have jointly developed an SEA training course in 2004, and are providing SEA training in the region. The course materials, including videos, lecture notes, and presentation slides, are available here


To further strengthen the Bank assistance in the area, the World Bank launched a multi-year SEA program “Developing Practice and Capacity of Strategic Environmental Analysis in East Asia and Pacific Region” in 2005. This project assists EAP countries and the World Bank operations to strategically mainstream and upstream environmental concerns into sectoral, national and regional development policies, programs and plans through Bank operations-related SEA applications, knowledge sharing and capacity building. 


Main components of the regional program include the stock-taking and baseline analysis of EIA practices and SEA requirements in the region, pilot SEA applications or scoping studies in support of the preparation of the Bank lending programs, and regional SEA capacity building and training.


Main Activities and Progress to Date


Regional Baseline Overview - "Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations and Strategic Environmental Assessment Requirements: Practices and Lessons Learned in East and Southeast Asia" (World Bank 2006) (view report)


This report takes the stock of EIA/SEA regulations, practice, and lessons learnt in key countries in the region and produces a baseline for progress monitoring.  It was printed in the series of regional safeguard dissemination notes in 2006.


The  table below provides EIA regulation by country in the East Asia and the Pacific region.

 Country    EIA Regulation  
 Cambodia                 EIA Decree 1999
 China     EIA Law 2002
 Hong Kong   EIA Ordinance 1998  
 Indonesia     EIA Law 2001  
 Japan   EIA Law 1998
 Korea     EIA Act 1999  
 Lao PDR   EIA Decree 2000  
 Mongolia   EIA Law 1998  
 Philippines     EIA Regulations 2003  
 Singapore     EPCA 2000
 Thailand    NEQA 1992  
 Vietnam     EIA Decree 1994


Regional Progress Review “Strategic Environmental Assessment in East and Southeast Asia: A Progress Review and Comparison of Country Systems and Cases” (World Bank 2009) (view report)  (pdf report)  


This report provides an update on progress with SEA in developing countries in East and Southeast Asia in recent years.  It may be read as a companion volume to the previous baseline review published in 2006. This update includes a comparative overview of the development and status of SEA systems in seven developing counties and 15 SEA cases that illustrate the state of practice in the region. It affords a number of insights into strengths and weaknesses of current practice in different countries, and identifies an agenda of needs and options for capacity development.


SEA for hydropower development in Vietnam


In collaboration with Electricity Vietnam (EVN), Ministry of Industry, and Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment in Vietnam, the Bank has helped to develop approaches and capacity in SEA implementation, to mainstream environment in country dialogue through stakeholder consultation, and to identify mitigation on biodiversity impacts on hydropower plans in Vietnam.  The project will be completed in the first half of 2007.


SEAs in the transport sector


There are several SEAs under preparation in the transport sector, ranging from railway planning, road network plans, and urban transport planning. In particular,

  • SEA scoping study on China’s railway sector.  The study was completed in June 2006 with a grant from the Italian Trust Fund.  It has helped the China Ministry of Railways improve its understanding of SEA and be better prepared for planning its investment programs and the Bank operations. 
  • SEA for urban and transport planning in Guiyang City, China.  In support of the implementation of the World Bank Guiyang Transport Project, the program has been assisting the city in preparing the SEA.  The French Development Agency is providing the funding to the project.  The procurement of consulting services is under way.
  • SEA of provincial road network plan (2002-2020) in Hubei Province, China.  The SEA aims to assess significant environmental and social impacts of the transport plan, identify and recommend mitigation measures and institutional adjustments needed to address these impacts, and assist the provincial government to strengthen its environmental assessment capacity in road network planning.  A scoping study was first carried out with a small grant from Japan.  The SEA was completed with the financial support of a Sida TA managed by the Bank. (view report)
  • New SEAs are under preparation in the World Bank transport lending projects in Hanoi, Vietnam  ; Fuzhou City  , China  ; and the Philippines. 

SEA of tourism development plans in Guizhou Province  , China.


To enhance the sustainability of tourism sector development, this activity conducted environmental assessment of tourism development plans in the province and developed a SEA working procedure and good practice in the tourism sector in China.  Funded with a grant from a Spain Trust Fund, the SEA was completed at the end of 2006. It is an integral part of the preparation of the World Bank Guizhou Cultural and Natural Heritage Project. To read the SEA report, click here


Strategic Assessment for Spatial Planning in Papua Province, Indonesia


This report assesses the economic, social and environmental consequences of different development scenarios for Papua province as an input to the spatial planning process.  The analysis focused on key development themes (transportation, mining, forestry) and the Mamberamo basin, assessing a business-as-usual and a sustainable development scenario.  To read the full report, please, click here | pdf version.


Regional capacity building and training


This activity focuses on SEA knowledge-sharing and capacity strengthening.  Jointly implemented with WBI, it has conducted clinics on hands-on experience and workshops in Vietnam  and the Philippines.  It has also established the following webpage and e-discussion mailing list (powered by ListServ) for knowledge-sharing and professional networking in Asia  . The SEA-Asia listserv has over 200 professionals, officials, and practitioners working on SEA in Asia  .

SEA listserv

In response to the increasing demand for knowledge-sharing and information exchange on SEA, the World Bank is sponsoring the SEA-Asia e-discussion group (powered by ListServ). The SEA-Asia listserv will be an online discussion forum for professionals interested in and/or working on SEA-related issues in Asia to share knowledge and experiences aimed at mainstreaming and advancing environmental concerns in development policies, programs and plans in the Asian countries. Read More 

Other useful SEA web links:

 World Bank Strategic Environment Assessment (SEA): World Bank information and resources to support the use of Strategic Environmental Assessment.

While we hope you might find the links below of interest, please note the World Bank is not responsible for the content of external websites.

 Asia-Pacific Center for Environmental Law at the National University of Singapore

 Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department SEA page

 International Institute for Environment and Development SEA Sourcebook

 SEAN Home

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