In one of the first EIA courses that I took during my undergrad, a particularly interesting topic grasped my attention. That is, the integration of Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and Health Impact Assessment (HIA) in relation to agritourism policy in Taiwan. SEA is the environmental assessment of plans, policies, and programs (PPPs) and their alternatives, including future development scenario. SEA is different from EIA in that it is strategically focused, future-oriented, focused on alternatives, objectives-led, proactive, integrated, and has a broad focus. HIA is the assessment of plans, policies, and programs, and includes the consideration of elements such as income and social status, health services, gender, education and literacy, and so forth. The integration of both SEA and HIA in relation to agritourism policy in Taiwan was examined in Kuo and Chiu’s 2006 article “The assessment of agritourism policy based on SEA combination with HIA”.
The development of agritourism in Taiwan has been highly advocated by the government since the late 1980’s as a means of agricultural diversification for rural areas. In 1993, the Council of Agriculture adopted the “Leisure Farm Development and Management Program” as a means of encouraging farmers to diversify their agricultural management strategies (Hsu 2005). In 1996, the Republic of China (ROC) government formulated and adopted the “Leisure Farm Guiding Regulations” which “encouraged farm owners to integrate local cultural activities into their management strategies for the purpose of being able to improve the local industry’s cultural uniqueness and to boost the local economy” (Hsu 2005). This has lead to the creation of leisure farms, attracting both foreign and national tourists to participate in activities related to local cultural rural life. According to Kuo and Chiu (2006), “a total of 369 country towns (100%) have developed recreational activities related to agriculture and 173 farms were established for tourism with the increasing demand of agritourism” (562). According to their article, the goals of the current agritourism policy include increasing the income of local people, creating new employment, and allowing tourists to experience agricultural life (564). The current policy however creates several significant impacts such as unmanageable waste generation, noise pollution from the construction of infrastructure, increased water and electricity consumption, conflict between agritourism development and local communities, and so forth. (2006). Although the current policy’s goal is intended to be beneficial for local inhabitants, several significant impacts are affecting various aspects of their health. Obviously, the policy is another example of economic concerns prioritized over environmental, social, and cultural considerations. As a means to solve these issues, Kuo and Chiu propose an alternative policy “based on organic agriculture combination with ecotourism to provide acceptable recreation opportunity without destroying the natural rural environment” (564). The authors demonstrate that consideration of local community health in the making of policies, and therefore the integration of HIA, is crucial to sound decision-making when it comes to SEA. As demonstrated, although the intents of the current policy were meant to positively impact local rural communities, important health considerations were left out, which resulted in several negative impacts. Although this is a precise example of the undertaking of SEA, it shows the way in which HIA must be integrated if sustainable development is to be truly advocated in policies such as the agritourism one in Taiwan. It think it will be interesting to study the benefits and shortcomings of SEA later in the ENVS601 course, and examine if such issues are also prominent in the Canadian SEA process and current Canadian policies.
Hsu, Chia-Chen. (2005) “Identification of intangible resources essential to agritourism enterprises in Taiwan: A Delphy study. Dissertation for Ohio State University. Last accessed on January 30, 2012 from <http://torc.linkbc.ca/torc/downs1/agritourism%20thesis.pdf>.
Kuo, N.W., & Chiu, Y.T. (2006). The assessment of agritourism policy based on SEA combination with HIA. Land Use Policy, 23(4), 560-570.