Environmental Impact In Australia: Issues Assessment Answer

Answer:

Introduction

Biodiversity in Australia is both unique and rich. Around 10% of total species on earth exists and occurs in Australia. Though these resources has been managed historically but their substantial loses could not be overlooked. The loss of native vegetation is approximately 1 million ha. Species extinctions are on high rate in the freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems. So many other factors have brought out the necessity to consider the reasons of this degradation. And what all could be done to protect all this. Hence, this paper will identify the major issue and determine potential ideas to overcome these issues.

Major Environmental Issues and Techniques to solve them

Disobeying the rules made by the nature associated with biophysical subsystem of the Earth might be injurious or even calamitous attributable to the danger of overpass verges and may trigger unexpected changes in the environment. Majority of issues related to environment arises due to the modification in human-induced habitation, water disposal and use of resources. Such as, diversion of water flows for human use results in reduced freshwater flow, impacts on biodiversity as a result of indirect activities like (use of pesticide, habitat clearing) and direct activities( fishing and hunting) and water and air pollution (Hobday and McDonald, 2014).

Though Australia is at the forefront in managing environmental changes, still faces many challenges related to it. There are four recent controversies in the environment of Australia which focuses on legislative and policy settings for promoting and resolving the conflict.  The four examples of issues are climate policy, mining and CSG extraction, fisheries conflicts mining and fresh-water resource management. These issues represent diverse contemporary environmental encounters range (Hobday and McDonald, 2014).

Addressing National Mitigation Efforts through Climate Change and Policy Instruments

Politics in climate change policies is highly diverged and in past decades policies has undergone major setbacks. During the times of Howard government (year 1996-2007) Climate policy was considered by preferring reluctance to commit Australia and voluntary emissions reductions measures to productions diminutions goals. Climate change mitigation is a global problem which needs joint resolutions. In September 2013, federal government introduced another setback in climate policy of Australia. According to older one carbon tax repealing was a key factor in government’s success, as soon the new government stepped in, they abolishes Climate Commission, now according to new rule it has been replaced with a multibillion dollar fund to provide incentives to reduce emissions (Hobday and McDonald, 2014).

Coal Seam Gas Development and Rapid Growth in Mining

In Australia the land owner does not have rights over the minerals beneath their land and government have rights to use it but with the consent of owner. Few of them opposes this use as it lowers down the quantity and quality of resources required for stock watering and irrigation. The main issues impacting environment are fragmentation and habitat disturbance; building pipelines and lines in place of national parks, disposal of the salt by-product from CSG extraction, disposal of wastewater and treatment and ecological impacts of groundwater extraction and potential contamination. The extraction of CSG and Coal too impact environment significantly, primarily at Queensland Coast. Federal government has committed to delegate decision making authority to states, regarding extension of CSG mining and coal mining. Results will be known a little soon (Hobday and McDonald, 2014).

Conflict in Marine Fisheries


Australians consumes sea food more than average global per capita per person which is 17kg while the average sea food consumed in Australia per person is 26kg which is a matter of concern, though it is amongst top countries in fisheries management and ecological status. Fishing capacity has been reduced and stocks overexploitation of Australian waters has been declined due to strict quota management, and implementation of many harvesting strategies helps the stocks in rebuilding therefore fisheries in Australia are relatively uncontroversial (Hobday and McDonald, 2014).

Conversely, other species could be affected by fishing abundance which includes by catch species which has been discarded such as dolphins, seabirds, turtles and seals non target species which has been retailed for sale. Fishing gear contact also results in habitats impact. Hence, the main concern has been given to reducing by-catch species, mainly marine mammals, turtles and sea birds and to reduce damage to habitat.

Nation is even standing at the forefront of closing fisheries in case by-catch species limits exceeds, hence trying to minimise impacts on habitats and protected species (Hobday and McDonald, 2014).

Storage in a Dry Landscape and Freshwater Allocation

Best use of Freshwater has always been a matter of concern for the nation and hydroelectricity generation and irrigation dominated these concerns. Considering water issues for future generation of Australia, in spite facing drought in 2010, Southwest and South Australia is under danger for water scarcity in future as the climate change portends. Hence, the reactions to the period drought justifies closer look which includes reforming laws related to freshwater for both state and national level, so that urban water supplies could be safeguarded (Hobday and McDonald, 2014).

Environment Management to tackle issues

A number of administration and policy innovations would help Australia in tacking the above future issues. Enforcement and wider application of changes is needed to dramatically improve status and health of Australia’s environmental assets.

Climate change mitigation needs programmatic, strategic and comprehensive review of conservation regimes and resource management to evaluate adaptability and effectiveness in case the climate changes. Enhanced integration of traditional zone and emergency control, for example, conservation and land use planning could prove important in climate-adaptive regimes (Hobday and McDonald, 2014).

As per Coal Seam Gas Development and Rapid Growth in Mining is concerned, the minister in Environment Department should consult IESC (Independent Expert Scientific Committee) before taking any decision on a CSG proposal related to Large Coal Mining and Coal Seam Gas development. Along with this, other MNESs also need to be considered which could be affected by the development in Acts.

To tackle the conflicts in marine fisheries, Strategic ecological steps has been taken considering all fisheries under the act EPBC, in order to offer  additional analysis of the environment impacts of a given fishery in Australia. For applying this effect evaluation of independent stock is desired in order to set catch levels according to prescribed rules, accompanied by comparing environmental sustainable development context against fishery’s administration plans that deliberates impressions on habitats and non-target species.

To manage the water flow new reforms has been agreed to introduce planning arrangements of water at both national and state level which can ensure minimised ecological flows for the river systems and address over allocation.  These reforms had made amendments to mechanisms related to water entitlements so in order to maintain resources. The rights to property has been separated from water rights which enables them to be allocated and traded with best value possible and hence enhance the chances for land owners to make future decisions about their land use (Hobday and McDonald, 2014).

Energy: An important issue or not?

Energy is what enables us to do the work. It exists in various different forms such as electrical, mechanical, chemical and radiant energy/ According to law of thermodynamics it can neither be created not be destroyed but can be changed from one from to another. Energy is considered as an important issue in relation to environment complete climate change and mitigation efforts as they are dependent on it. Hence it is important to consider renewable energy and energy efficiency. One of the major issues in generating renewable energy though a wind farm is they are acting dangerous for bird populations. Although it is good in reducing greenhouse gas emissions but linked environmental cost due to bird strikes cannot be ignored. Innovative quantitative and qualitative tools accounting broader range of economic, social and environmental objectives could assist judgment makers in resolving such trade-offs.

EIA steps while seeking Project Approval

This process has been divided into two groups. The first process is referral i.e. whether the process should be send or not for approval and the second is decision whether to approve the project or to reject it.

Referral Process

Step 1: To check whether the planned project will impact matter of national environment significantly such as national heritage places, migratory species, nuclear actions etc. and to confirm that planned action will significantly impact the general environment in a good way.

If the answers to the above question are NO then one should abort the project and if yes then one can refer the proposed project to the minister.

Step 2: Minister takes 20 working days to decide on the approval under EPBC act. In case minister does not find it feasible person is informed about the same. In case minister finds it feasible he can reply with three possibilities which are controlled action, Not controlled action ‘particular manner’ and not controlled action respectively. In

In first case proposed plan needs to be submitted for approval while in other two approvals is not required in case the action has been taken in accord with manner specified or referral.

Decision Process

Step 1: To check if the project could be assessed using a process accredited under territory or state government’s bilateral agreement or under a process accredited under Australian government’s ministerial declarations.

If the answer to the above question is yes proposed plan is to be assessed by any of these mentioned above and then state govt. prepares report on the same.

In case the answer to the above mentioned question is No. In that case there are five possibilities which are accredited assessment (case by case), Assessment on referral information, Assessment on preliminary documentation, Assessment by EIS/PER and Assessment by public inquiry respectively.

In first case, case by case, the actions are same as in case of the answer to the questions in step 1 was yes.

 In second case:

  • An approval report has to be prepared by the by the department
  • Then, It has to be publishes for public comments for 10 working days
  • Finally, it is provided to minister for approval and will be judged within 30 working days.

In third case: Minister could decide on two actions: publish information for public directly or can request more information from person who proposed the project.  After publishing information proponent waits for the public comments and after 10 days presents revised report to minister. In case no comments were received from public information is re-published. Reviewing comments department prepares a report on the same and sent to minister.

In fourth Case: Some tailored or standard guidelines are provided to proponent by the minister regarding drafting PER or EIS. Proponent then prepares it and ministers ask to get public comments after publishing it. Public comments are taken into account and then department prepares a report on the same and sent to minister.

In fifth case: Various commissioners are appointed by minister and terms of references are set.  An inquiry process is then conducted by the commission and report is submitted to minister.

Step 2: Depending upon the date finalised report received minister makes decision within 20, 30 and 40 working days for assessment on referral information, assessment by a state/territory process, and assessment by inquiry or EIS respectively.

Pitfalls of Environment Impact Assessment

EIA (Environment Impact Assessment) legally sets up decision processes in Australia related to major developments. They follow a specific process which is recognised internationally, but their practises differ with places due to administrative and legislative nuances. One amongst others pitfall in EIA is post decision monitoring also known as follow-up. This section summarises the pitfalls in EIA taking case study “Adelaide Desalination Plant’ as its base (Kampf and Clarke 2013).

The project has three levels of assessments for EIA: Development Report, Public Environment Report and Environment Impact Statement. The examination of the project reveals that Adelaide Desalination Plant’s operating licence’s conditions are much softer than what has been reported by proponent of the project and approval situations imposed by territory (Kampf and Clarke 2013). A number of pitfalls have been detected in research which needs to be improved. They are:

  • At present the EIS process and application for license are separate processes. Applying for the Operating license should be clubbed with the process of EIS
  • Monitoring which is currently operated by operators must be undertaken by scientific experts.
  • The information related to monitoring is incomplete and not accessible to public with needed scientific severity; just the information submitted to EPA is accessible to public. Hence, a step must be taken to improve this so that complete relevant information is accessible to public.
  • A process must be developed by the state government which ensures the adherences to approval conditions.

Environmental Impact Assessment of WestConnex

The proposed modification for the WestConnex is seeking approval M4 Widening under which they have proposed for an off-road cycleway which would diverse cyclists from the westbound shoulder of the M4 motorway (Austroads 2010).

Step 1: Screening

At the start of the project it is initially screened for proper examination of environment analysis then it is decided whether or not EIA is required. In case No project is refrained from EIA, else proceed (Austroads 2010).

Step2: Scope

The scope of this assessment is to determine impacts of the project on the environment and considering measures to overcome them during construction and operation of M4 widening. Measures for mitigation and management have also been included while seeking approval. In case further modifications are needed, approval conditions would be amended as per need.

The modification in the proposed project generated the following environment issues:

  • Traffic and Transport
  • Noise and Vibration
  • Biodiversity
  • Heritage
  • Visual and landscape character
  • Soil and Contamination

Step 3: Impact Analysis

Impact on Traffic and Transport

If the suggested modification is made to traffic and transport it would not affect the general construction traffic impacts which have been mentioned in sec 8.1 of Environment Impact System.

Impact on Noise and Vibration

The department responsible for environment complained several times for the noise and reported it as a key environmental issue. As per the statistics are concerned 40 percent of all complaints registered to State of Environment regarding M4 widening was related to noisy vehicles. However it would not affect the proposed modification as it is only cycleway off-road and thus meets the operations noise goals.

Impact on Biodiversity

The area where the modification has been planned is dominated by non-indigenous and exotic species in a wide range and construction of planned cycleway will be affecting extra 0.0747 hectares of these species planted. EIS stated that the communities of ecology present in the proposed area are threatening to environment and have minimal importance in habitat values and floral diversity (Coffey 2015).

Impact on Heritage

None of the archaeological deposits, potential or sites or Aboriginal archaeological articles were discovered at the proposed area and no impact of the same were noticed.

Impact on Landscaping and Visual Amenity

Around the proposed cycleway, landscape character zones were discovered that mainly reflects the nature of the adjacent areas. The eastern section of the proposed area is largely on-ground which created a more closed contribution of character to recognized band of plants along the edges.

Impacts on soil and contamination

To investigate the impact of the proposed plan on soil and contamination, from the western section three test pits were undertaken. Bases on the results, it was stated that no soil contamination risk was found which was objectionable in the area. Hence it was concluded that management of ground water and soul intercepted or disturbed while construction goes on is required (Coffey 2015).

Step 4: Mitigation and Impact Management

Measures for traffic and transport

In a plan construction by environment management department i.e. CEMP which also includes TAMP detailed how pedestrians, cyclists and motorists would be safely managed while construction for the M4 widening goes on (Coffey 2015).

Measures for Noise and Vibration

The NVMP (Noise and Vibration management plan) assures that EWMS will be created for construction area. They also considered that various measures would be undertaken to control the noise and vibrations while refining the report and will incorporate it on site if approval is achieved (Jacobs 2014).

Measures for Biodiversity impacts

An offset strategy was prepared for the biodiversity effects and got approved for the submission, in this strategy various processes were outlined which could help in threating caused by the proposed project.

Measures for Heritage impact

No impact was found on the same

Measures for Landscaping

The mitigation measures to overcome landscaping issues includes planting trees and plants along the edge and verges throughout the course which would provide shades and amenities to cyclists.

Measures for Soil and Contamination

The waste associated with soil contamination would be managed under SWMP plan which has already been approved by the CEMP authorities. They stated that extra testing needs to be done before confirming water organization for the supervision of piling spoil and excess embankment (Jacobs 2014).

Step 5 & 6: Review and Conditions of Approval

Environment Impact system discovered multiple outcomes which could happen to the environment and came up with various measures to handle them and implemented in desire to reduce impacts on society and ecology due to construction of M4 widening project. After considering reviews from minister the environmental management measures for the project were revised. The modified measures for the project management will be applied to the m$ widening project.

The M4 Widening project, comprising of all the alterations reviewed and revised, along with approved modifications would be sent ahead for seeking approval (Jacobs 2014).

In case it is approved it would be implemented in the project.

References

Hobday, A.J. and McDonald, J. (2014), “Environmental Issues in Australia”, Annu. Rev. Environment Resource. 2014. 39:1–28.

Kampf, J. and Clarke, B. (2013), “How robust is the environment impact assessment process in South Australia? Behind the scenes of the Adelaide seawater desalination project”. School of Environment, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia.

Fawzi, R., Ameen, M., Mourshed, M. and  Li, H. (2015 a), BRE Centre of Sustainable Construction, School of Engineering, The Parade, Cardiff University, CardiffCF24 3AA,United Kingdom.

Fawzi, R., Ameen, M., Mourshed, M. and  Li, H. (2015 b), Department of Civil Engineering, College of Engineering, University of Karbala, Iraq.

Environmental Impact Assessment in Australia, Theory and Practise, Third Ed.

Artefact Heritage (2014) Non-Indigenous Assessment and Statement of Heritage Impacts  Austroads (2010) Guide to Road Design.

Coffey (2015), WestConnex Stage 1A – M4 Widening Soil Contamination Report

DECCW (2009), Interim Construction Noise Guideline

HBO+EMTB Urban and Landscape Design (2015), Draft WestConnex M4 Widening Urban Design and Landscape Plan

Infrastructure NSW (2012), State Infrastructure Strategy 2012-2032

Jacobs AECOM (2014), WestConnex M4 Widening Traffic and Transport Working Paper – Working Paper 4

Jacobs SKM (2014),WestConnex M4 Widening Pitt Street, Parramatta to Homebush Bay Drive, Homebush Biodiversity Assessment 

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