Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA): a brief analysis of its application in Peru

The origin of the SEA

In 1969, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) introduced the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as a way to incorporate the environmental effects of human actions in decision-making (Partidario 2006).

Although the EIA conceived by the NEPA was aimed at all levels of the decision-making process (from policy to projects), over time the EIA began focusing only on projects (Espinoza 2007). This situation led to the search for more appropriate tools for strategic decisions, thus the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) appeared.

The relationship between SEA and EIA

The SEA was not designed to replace the EIA, but to complement it (OECD 2007). Sequentially, the SEA is used to examine the policies, plans and programs and select the best development proposals, and then the EIA determines the potential environmental impacts of the projects that will make these proposals come true (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. SEA: Up-streaming environmental considerations into the decision-making hierarchy


                                 Source: OECD 2007

The following table shows a comparison of the main features of SEA and EIA:



It applies to policies, plans and programs It applies to projects
It is proactive and establishes development proposals It is reactive to a development proposal
It has a broad strategic perspective, of long-term and low level of detail It has a narrow perspective, relatively short-term and highly detailed
It considers a wide range of scenarios It considers a limited range of project alternatives
It is performed independently with regard to any project It is commissioned by the project owner
It focuses on choosing the best development proposals It focuses on getting permission for a project
It is a comprehensive review of cumulative impacts It is a null or limited review of cumulative impacts

Source: Adapted from Espinoza, 2007 and OCDE, 2007.

The case of Peru

The correct application of the SEA can contribute to developing countries, such as Peru, overcome many environmental challenges. However, precisely in these countries SEA experience is scarce, both at a conceptual level and in practical application, which lead to committing serious errors that distort its nature.

In Peru, the SEA became a regulation in 2008 (Legislative Decree No. 1078). Despite this, the lack of guidelines and terms of reference is not conducive to proper implementation.

A review undertaken for this post only identified the development of three SEAs in the case of Peru. The first example is the SEA for the Lima Urban Transport Program (2003)[1]. At that time there was no regulation or experience with regard to a SEA, which is reflected in the use of inappropriate methodologies (extracted from EIAs).

The second experience was the SEA for the Northern Amazon Corridor (2004)[2]. This being a road project, the study that should have been applied was an EIA not an SEA, demonstrating the conceptual deficiencies of ProInversión, which was the government entity that requested the study.

Finally we have the case of the SEA for the Hydrocarbons Development Program in Lower Urubamba (2005)[3]. At the time that this study was commissioned by the CONAM (environmental authority) the concession of the 5 hydrocarbons blocks in Lower Urubamba had already been given, and one of them was already operational (Barandarian 2008), which clearly goes against the preventive nature of any SEA (see Figure 2).

Figure 2. Concession of 5 hydrocarbons blocks (90, 57, 56, 88 and 58) in the Lower Urubamba (Cusco, Peru) prior to SEA

mapa blocks

                                                           Source: CONAM 2005

It is curious that all these SEAs were made before the regulation existed, and since the regulation exists, there has been no other SEA (as far as I could find)! We’ll see how it evolves in the future.

[1] ECSA Ingenieros. “Evaluación Ambiental Estratégica del Programa de Transporte Urbano de Lima”. PROTRANSPORTES. Municipalidad Metropolitana de Lima. 2003.

[2] ECSA Ingenieros. “Evaluación Ambiental Estratégica del Corredor Vial Amazonas Norte (CVAN)”. PROINVERSIÓN. 2004.

 [3] ECSA Ingenieros. “Evaluación Ambiental Estratégica del Programa de Desarrollo de Hidrocarburos en el Bajo Urubamba (PDHBU)”. CONAM. 2005.


  • Barandarian, Alberto. “Evaluación Ambiental Estratégica en el Perú: Propuestas para el diseño de esta herramienta”. Derecho, Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (DAR). Lima. 2008.
  • Espinoza, Guillermo. “Gestión y Fundamentos de Evaluación de Impacto Ambiental”. Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo (BID) y Centro de Estudios para el Desarrollo. Santiago de Chile. 2007.
  • Organización para la Cooperación y el Desarrollo Económico (OCDE). “La Evaluación Ambiental Estratégica: Una guía de buenas prácticas en la cooperación para el desarrollo”. 2007.
  • Partidario, M.R. “Conceptos, evolución y perspectivas de la Evaluación Ambiental Estratégica”. Seminario de expertos sobre la Evaluación Ambiental Estratégica en Latinoamérica en formulación y gestión de políticas. Santiago de Chile. 2006.
  • CONAM. Evaluación Ambiental Estratégica en el Bajo Urubamba. 2005.

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