Post-Disaster Impact Assessment: A Toolbox for Saving Lives in a Changing World

Natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes and floods affect millions of people every year. Climate change will likely add to the natural disasters which already occur around the world. The global climate is warming, causing increases in tropical storms; desert areas are becoming drier, contributing to increases in droughts and food shortages; and land-glaciers are melting, leading to an increase in avalanches and landslides [1][4]. In addition to these climate-driven disasters, the Earth is continuously undergoing geologic changes which result in volcanic eruptions, landslides and earthquakes. With growing populations near hazard-prone areas, post-disaster impact assessment is going to be an important toolbox for rebuilding in safer areas and saving lives. 

Original Data from the EM-DAT International Disaster Database, Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, University of Louvain (

Figure 1: A steady increase in climate-related natural disasters is apparent from the blue bar plot in this graph (Source [3])

 On March 11, 2011, Eastern Japan was hit by a magnitude-9.0 earthquake and subsequent 40.5 meter-high tsunami which killed over 19,000 people and destroyed 835 000 homes [5][6]. Japan is a developed county known for having countermeasures and evacuation plans for tsunami disasters [5]. They utilize both hard (i.e. breakwaters and sea walls) and soft (i.e. awareness and education) mitigation measures to ensure the minimize loss of life [5].


Figure 2: Shows Japan and many other countries’ vulnerability due to the “Ring of Fire”, an extremely active zone of crustal plate boundaries (Source:

Impact assessment for damages was used to determine the performance of buildings materials and to record which locations were most vulnerable to flooding and sea level rise. Post-disaster on-the-ground fieldwork can be coupled with GIS tools to assess damages and to plan for the future. GIS technologies were used after the 2011 tsunami to show how well the hard mitigation measures performed. Types of GIS data that can be used are: elevation maps to map vulnerable areas and to locate shelters away from flood-prone land, land use to map vulnerability of structures and towns, and road networks to map access routes to affected areas [2]. For example, vulnerability assessment was done by mapping housing damage in vulnerable inundation areas and assessing “fragility curves” for different types of construction materials [5]. Disaster Science and Engineering experts Suppasri et al. (2013) were able to visually inform Japanese authorities of the best construction materials to be used in future development projects.

Examples of different damage levels for the same tsunami inundation depth. Figure from [4], page 1005

Figure 3: Examples of different damage levels for the same tsunami inundation depth (Source [5], p.1005)

Mapping disaster damage coupled with on-the-ground studies such as photographs and written accounts are essential for informing policy for future improvements to counter-disaster management strategies.  As shown above, this can also be said for types of construction materials used for building homes to increase resilience against tsunamis. Furthermore, GIS applications could be used to map historical inundation areas to plan new prevention plans, choose evacuation areas, and to visually inform residents of their location’s vulnerability to natural disasters such as tsunamis [5]. Scenario analysis mapping is an essential tool to be used to inform policy in choosing relocation areas away from vulnerable coastlines, as well as away from other potential natural disaster areas (e.g. landslides and floods).

On a warming planet where natural hazards have the potential to augment, and where societies will continue to be subject to various geologic hazards, post-disaster impact assessors will be needed to contribute to reconstruction efforts and to inform future disaster-planning in vulnerable areas.

Works Cited

[1] Bury, J.T. et al. (2011). Glacier recession and human vulnerability in the Yanamarey watershed of the Cordillera Blanca, Peru. Climatic Change , 105, 179-206.

[2] Latif, S., Islam, R., Khan, M. I., & Ahmed, S. I. (2011). OpenStreetMap for the Disaster Management in Bangladesh. IEEE Conference on Open Systems, (pp. 429-433). Langkawi, Malaysia.

[3] Leaning, J., & Guha-Sapir, D. (2013). Natural Disasters, Armed Conflict, and Public Health. New England Journal of Medicine, 369(19), 1836-1842.

[4] Malone, E. L., & Engel, N. L. (2011). Evaluating regional vulnerability to climate change: purposes and methods. WIREs Climate Change , 2, 462-474.

[5] Suppasri, A., Shuto, N., Imamura, F., Koshimura, S., Mas, E., & Yalciner, A. C. (2013). Lessons Learned from the 2011 Great East Japan Tsunami: Performance of Tsunami Countermeasures, Coastal Buildings, and Tsunami Evacuation in Japan. Pure and Applied Geophysics , 170, 993-1018.

[6] Utani, A., Mizumoto, T., & Okumura, T. (2011). How geeks responded to a catastrophic disaster of a high-tech country: rapid development of counter-disaster systems for the great east Japan earthquake of March 2011. Proceedings of the Special Workshop on Internet and Disasters, (pp. 1-8). Tokyo, Japan.


ISO 14001 is Changing: Summary of proposed updates to ISO 14001 based on the Second Committee Draft

ISO 14001 Info-Graphic (by Charter4)

Don’t know ISO 14001? Check out this ISO 14001 Info-Graphic (by Charter4) for a brief overview.

ISO 14001 is the international standard for environmental management systems (EMS). The standard was last updated in 2009 and is currently being revised by the International Organization for Standardization [1]. In January 2014, the relevant ISO working group voted to make the second committee draft (CD2) (ISO 14001:201X) a Draft International Standard [2]. Once formally adopted, the revised standard will replace the current version in 2015 and will be valid into the 2020s [3].

The revised standard’s goals reinforce those of previous versions:

“help […] cut costs, improve productivity, capitalize on business opportunities, maintain and enhance brand, and reduce costs” [3, p. 14].

Key Changes

1. Structural Change: ISO 14001:201X will follow a schema common to all international management systems [4]. As a result of this change, implementing multiple management systems within an organisation will be facilitated.

2. Leadership and Strategic Planning: The most important change in the standard is the requirement to incorporate and take into consideration environmental management in all decision-making and strategic planning [2]. The reason for this integration is to incorporate environmental management in the core all business activities/processes [3]. The draft lists certain tasks that can only be performed by executive management. This is a change, because most obligations could previously be delegated by management [1].

3. Interested Parties: The term interested parties are proposed to replace the term stakeholders [1]. The needs and views of interested parties will need to be taken into consideration when implementing ISO 14001:201X [3].

Interested parties in the draft are defined in section 3.2 as

“person(s) and groups affected by an organization expressing their needs and expectations with its environmental performance; [for example:] customers, community, suppliers, regulators, nongovernment organizations, investors, employees” [1, p. 2].

4. Environmental Aspects: ISO 14001:201X includes requirements to not only manage environmental aspects within the organization, but also those aspects that are external to the organization if the organization can influence or control them. This is done in an effort to improve the environmental performance of the entire value chain [3].

5. Impacts of Environment on Business: The revised standard will add requirements to assess not only the impact of the business on the environment, but also the effects of the environment on the long-term business outcomes, formalizing the management of environmental risks [3]. An example of this would be to assess how climate change will affect a business and how the business plans to manage and adapt to these changes.

6. Required Objectives in the Environmental Policy: In the current version of the standard, the environmental policy must make commitments “to be legally compliant, to prevent pollution, and to continually improve their EMS” [3, p. 15]. Legal compliance will be expanded to compliance obligations in ISO 14001:201X. This includes all legal requirements and “voluntary commitments […], such as industry standards and codes, contractual relationships, principles of good governance and accepted community and ethical standards” [1, p. 2]. The meaning of prevention of pollution is also expanded to include the protection of the environment, biodiversity, and ecosystems, the mitigation of and adaption to climate change and the application of environmental management principles such as “environmental responsibility, precautionary approach and polluter pays” [1, p. viii].


Major changes are coming to ISO 14001 [5, 3]. The final version of the new standard is not yet published, but the description above gives a broad overview of the key of the proposed changes. Environmental professionals should keep up-to-date with the changes as this will provide many opportunities in the coming years.


Please check out the following documents, presentations and videos to find out more about the upcoming changes to ISO 14001.


[1] ISO, Environmental management systems — Requirements with guidance for use [Committee Draft (CD2)], International Organization for Standardization, 2013.

[2] S.-J. Russell, “Revised ISO 14001 to become DIS,” 28 January 2014. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 20 February 2014].

[3] M. Baxter, “Moving EMS forward,” The Environmentalist, pp. 14-16, January 2014.

[4] S. L. K. Briggs, “ISO 14001 revision is underway,” 18 April 2012. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 21 February 2014].

[5] M. Tornow, “Major revision of ISO 14001 coming up: what is new in ISO 14001:2015?,” 27 January 2014. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 21 February 2014].

From historic village to ghost town: A case study for uncertainty and conflict in human environment

By Emmanuelle Galeotti                       

Doel is to disappear from the map by 2020 [1]. This historic village is located north of the international seaport of Antwerp in Belgium, on the banks of the Scheldt River that gives access to the North Sea. Doel first appears in records in 1267 [2] and is the unique polder village left in Belgium. Doel has lots of historical buildings, some landscapes made famous by baroque painter Rubens, a 17th century stone wind mill, and a nuclear plant.

What happened? Rise in containers’ traffic demanded expansion of Antwerp’s harbor. Plans to expand the harbor had been in the air since 1963, but were subject to economic fluctuations and politics; subsequently construction of the new containers’ terminal in Doel only began in 2000 with additional plans for industrial development [3].


Sources/Credit: Wikipedia, Romany WG (

David versus Goliath

Located just south of Doel the first terminal called “Deurganckdock” has been operational since 2005. Since 2012 Deurganckdock has been undergoing expansion: it is to become the largest lock in the world with a length of 500m, a width of 68m and a depth of 17m [4].

Construction of the second terminal, Saeftinghe, will erase Doel and should be operational by 2016 [5].

The Saetinghedok would drawn more than Doel

The Saetinghedok would drown more than Doel

Ever expanding Port of Antwerp

Ever expanding Port of Antwerp

Sources:, and

The port of Antwerp is the largest port and petrochemical cluster in the world; it now spans the equivalent of 20,000 football stadiums [6].

Needless to say other communities and polders disappeared in silence to make place for the ever-growing international seaport. Officially the Port of Antwerp will develop the Saeftinghe terminal to guarantee the sustainable growth of the port, the European Investment Bank foots half of the bill [7].

But for those who want to keep calling Doel  ‘home’ the fight is not yet over; they formed  an activist group in 2007 called Doel 2020 to defend their community rights. As the population dwindles some artists and squatters have taken residence in Doel and they keep it alive. Now street art and ghost-town chills attract tourists and photographers, despite the disappearance of Doel’s cafes and hotels.

Demolition started in August 2008, 100 riot-squad officers were sent to oppose locals’ resistance.

demolition doelcaterpillar

Credits: Paul Maes

Social Impact Assessment (SIA), uncertainty and conflict

The Flemish government approved the construction of the new dock in Doel in 1998. The village was to be demolished. Those willing to leave were offered a sum by the government depending on the size of their dwelling and the number of years of residence in Doel. Owners also received compensation for the loss of their property while assistance to find a new home was proposed to the tenants [3]. The official  population declined from approximately 1300 in 1972 [2] to 188 in 2013 [10].

An SIA was conducted in 1999 (after the green party was locally elected) to evaluate the impacts of the port extension on Doel’s sociological profile. The population survey uncovered the fact that people wanted to stay only for their emotional bond to their village; never did they mention any positive outcomes – like jobs from the new development [3]. As for environmental justice, people living now in Doel are the most vulnerable: elders, jobless, single member dwellings, all tenants and deprived of services [3]. The SIA conclusions acknowledged the possible remediation of impacts on the environment, but stressed that social impacts were to “be very significant” on the village’s social fabric.  According to Marx (2002), the culprit is the uncertainty the community was left in for over 40 years, which had a deleterious effect upon household’s decision-making.

The Aarhus Convention was enforced late in 2001; therefore public consultation was not yet main stream in Europe at the time of the SIA.

Unfortunately, the SIA came too late and the opportunity to prevent or diminish conflict between authorities and community was lost. Acting pro-actively through an SIA to identify potential causes and consequences in conflict-sensitive situations is often emphasized in the literature[8,9], because impacts on human environment start at the announcement of a change not when impacts materialize as is the case with physical and biological impacts. “Conflict-aware SIA” would have been a worthy approach since further delay or change in the expansion plans would be enormously costly to Antwerp Port Authority.

Essential elements for  a successful SIA include [9]:

–          Proper communication at all stages of the process

–          Stake-holders identification and network analysis

–          Considering each conflict as context-dependent and having a case-by-case approach

In SIA “subjective feelings and perceptions are valid impacts and indicators of impacts (…) they lead to negative experiences and may trigger conflicts.” ([8] p33)

According to these authors caution is necessary when identifying potential reasons for conflict as it is difficult to understand how all the variables interact in a conflict setting. Therefore, monitoring is critical to keep communication flowing and to avoid potential conflicts.

In October 2013, the group Doel2020  achieved the challenge to “put Antwerp’s plans for extension in the balance” after reaching to the Auditor of the Council of State[10]. As of 2014, Doel is still on the map and the Saeftinghe tidal container dock is still in the plans. The uncertain future of Doel continues.


[1] Telefunker , accessed 01/18/2014

[2] Wikipedia, accessed on 01/21/2014

[3] Axel Marx, Uncertainty and social impacts: A case study of a Belgian village, Environmental Impact Assessment Review, Volume 22, Issue 1, January 2002, Pages 79-96, ISSN 0195-9255,

[4], accessed 01/19/2014

[5], accessed 01/18/2014

[6],  accessed 01/19/2014


[8] P. V. Prenzel & F. Vanclay. (2014) How social impact assessment can contribute to conflict management. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 45: 1, 30-37.

[9] C.J. Barrow.(2010 )How is environmental conflict addressed by SIA?. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 30: 5, 293-301.

ISSN 0195-9255,


[10], accessed 01/19/2014

Will the White Whales of St. Lawrence survive?

The beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas), also known as white whale for their distinct all-white colour, is an Arctic and sub-Arctic marine mammal. It possesses a distinctive organ at the front of its head called melon, which is used for echolocation. The size of a beluga whale is between that of a dolphin’s and a true whale’s (Wikipedia).


Image Source: National Geographic (

Historically, the beluga whale had a population size of about 10,000 individuals (during the 1800s) in the St. Lawrence Estuary (SLE) but currently (2003) about 1100 individuals live there (DFO, 2005).

The prime cause of their disappearance, hunting, was banned in 1979. Naturally, the population would have been expected to increase since then, but no clear sign of recovery is seen (Lebeuf et al., 2007).

Martineau et al. (2002) reported that they studied 129 beluga carcasses out of 263 reported stranded between 1983 and 1999. They found 27% of the adult belugas had cancer. The annual rate of all cancer types was much higher than any other population of cetaceans and was similar to that of humans.

High concentration of PAH(polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) were found in the Saguenay River sediments (500-4500 ppb of total PAH); which is a part of SLE beluga habitat. These compounds originate mainly from upstream aluminum smelters. The invertebrates living in the bottom sediment accumulate PAHs and they form a significant amount of SEL beluga diet.

High rates of cancer among workers in aluminum plants have been related to PAHs epidemiologically. Martineau et al. (2002) suggested from these studies that PAHs are related to high rate of cancer in SLE belugas.

Metcalfe et al. (1999) showed that total PCB (Polychlorinated biphenyl), DDT (dichlorodiphenyl-trichloroethane) and Chlordane concentrations in SLE beluga tissues were higher compared to the Canadian Arctic belugas; which reflects the input of these chemicals into the St. Lawrence river.

A temporal trend analysis of persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) chemicals on these whales showed that concentration of most of the PBTs in SLE beluga have decreased between 1987 and 2002; while no increasing trends were observed either (Lebeuf et al., 2007).

Yet, concentration of the toxic chemicals in beluga tissues are not decreasing quickly and new persistent contaminants are being introduced to the aquatic ecosystem. So, these contaminants accumulate in juveniles and adults through the food and in calves through their mothers. There are other threats to the beluga population too, which include marine traffic, anthropogenic noise, reduced fish population, habitat destruction etc. (DFO, 2012)

Recent news report says that since 2008, there has been an increase in the mortality rate of beluga whale calves. The report quoted Robert Michaud, scientific director of the Groupe de recherche et d’éducation sur les mammifères marins (GREMM), who informed that since 2005, along with increasing mortality rate of calves, a lot of female belugas are dying during, before or after giving birth. He also informed that, there has been no surveys since 2009 (CBC News, 2013).


Image Source: CBC News, 2013.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada proposed long-term mitigation measures to restore the beluga whale population to 70% of its historical size (7070 individuals), but with current growth rate of 1% it will take until 2100 to reach that goal (DFO, 2012).


Fig: The Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park and the two proposed marine protected areas (MPAs), the proposed Manicouagan marine protected area and the proposed St. Lawrence Estuary Marine Protected Area. Inset: the location of the area in Quebec. (Source: DFO, 2012).

There is lack of study that correlates organic chemicals in beluga tissues to the source of these chemicals. Proper monitoring and management plan for industrial development activities needs to be adopted. Cumulative effects assessment of the St. Lawrence River watershed might help us to identify and minimize the negative impacts of the toxic chemicals on the St. Lawrence River ecosystem.

The question comes to mind, who to blame? Are the industries only responsible for the pollution?

Leave your word below.


Beluga whale. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved October 08, 2013, from

CBC News. 2013, August 20. Beluga deaths in St. Lawrence worry whale researchers. Retrieved October 8, 2013, from

DFO. 2005. Recovery potential assessment of Cumberland sound, Ungava Bay, Eastern Hudson Bay and St. Lawrence beluga populations (Delphinapterus leucas). DFO Can Sci Advis Sec Sci Advis Rep 2005/036, 14 pp. Available at; 2006.

DFO. 2012. Recovery Strategy for the beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas) St. Lawrence Estuary population in Canada. Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series. Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa. 88 pp + X pp. Available at

Lebeuf, M., M. Noël, S. Trottier and L. Measures. 2007. “Temporal trends (1987-2002) of persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) chemicals in beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas) from the St. Lawrence Estuary, Canada.” Science of the Total Environment 383: 216-231.

Martineau, Daniel, Karin Lemberger, André Dallaire, Philippe Labelle, Thomas P. Lipscomb, Pascal Michel and Igor Mikaelian. 2002. “Cancer in Wildlife, a Case Study: Beluga from the St. Lawrence Estuary, Québec, Canada.” Environmental Health Perspectives 110: 285-292.

Metcalfe, C.,  T. Metcalfe, S. Ray, G. Paterson and B. Koeniga. 1999. “Polychlorinated biphenyls and organochlorine compounds in brain, liver and muscle of beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas) from the Arctic and St. Lawrence estuary.” Marine Environmental Research 47: 1-15.

Enbridge and the lack of risk management

Suncor refinery in East-Montreal. (credit: David Vilder)

Suncor refinery in East-Montreal. (credit: David Vilder)

Enbridge 9B. This name should ring a bell as it is everywhere in the media these days.

Enbridge, based in Alberta, is seeking approval from the National Energy Board (NEB) to reverse the flow and increase capacity of the pipeline from 240 000 to 300 000 barrels a day. The 9B section in question goes from Hamilton to Montreal and is part of a broader line that links Alberta to the Atlantic. According to Enbridge this project is a “critical step in ensuring Quebec’s future in refining and petrochemical industries”; it will safeguard over a thousand permanent jobs and generate substantial taxes revenues for municipalities (Enbridge, 2012).

The project has received strong support from Suncor, who operates the Montreal-East refinery as well as from the government of Quebec (Shields, 2013). Both Enbridge and Ultramar (operating the refinery in Levis) registered lobbyists in Quebec to improve social acceptability (Shields, 2013).  Both Premier Marois and the Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment, Wildlife and Parks (MDDEFP) Yves-François Blanchet have been promising ‘consultations’ for months, yet now a few months before the first barrels are supposed to flow nothing has been done (Nadeau, 2013).

Enbridge's 9B pipeline

Enbridge’s 9B pipeline

Facing the government’s inaction, municipalities in Quebec have voiced their concern and on April 22nd 2013 the City of Montreal formally asked for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and a public hearing to be conducted by the MDDEFP (City of Montreal, 2013). That demand has yet to be answered (Côté & Croteau, 2013).

In Canada, pipelines fall under federal competence through the NEB. Critics argue that recent amendments to the National Energy Board Act through omnibus Bill C-38 gave the NEB power to screen potential participants from public hearings (Ruby, 2013). Ottawa’s support to Enbridge is the most heard open secret, especially after the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines (Shields, 2013).

However, there is still room for leverage from the provinces. Unless deemed frivolous, article 31.3 of Quebec’s Law on the Quality of the Environment (Loi sur la qualite de l’environnement) requires the government of Quebec to hold public hearings if formally asked by a municipality, person or group. In Ontario, where line 9B also faces strong opposition, the 2006 Clean Water Act could be used to require an independent EIA. Last August, Premier Kathleen Wynne strongly came against Enbridge and threatened to do a separate EIA if the project still showed environmental concerns (CBC, 2013).

One might argue why conduct another EIA when the NEB has already done one? A brief look at the actual report gives some hints. Three issues have been voluntarily left out of the scope. First, the impact of the 12% increase of production is left unaccounted for. The same goes for the increase of CO2 emissions in Quebec that will result from the extra supply. Third, and perhaps most importantly, effects from potential spills are completely ignored (Stantec, 2013).

Whistle-blower John Bolenbaugh wades through thick mud in the Kalamazoo River looking for leftover traces of oil from the July 2010 Enbridge tar sands pipeline spill.      John W. Poole/NPR     John Bolenbaugh stands in a forested stretch of the Kalamazoo River that borders a mobile home community in Battle Creek, Mich.     John Bolenbaugh stands in a forested stretch of the Kalamazoo River that borders a mobile home community in Battle Creek, Mich.     John W. Poole/NPR     Oil rings on trees only 50 feet from the nearest home show the height of the oil and water, and its proximity to the Baker Estates Mobile Home Park in Battle Creek.     Oil rings on trees only 50 feet from the nearest home show the height of the oil and water, and its proximity to the Baker Estates Mobile Home Park in Battle Creek.     John W. Poole/NPR     Michelle BarlondSmith and her husband lived in a riverfront trailer park. BarlondSmith says the sickening fumes from the oil lasted for months.     Michelle BarlondSmith and her husband lived in a riverfront trailer park. BarlondSmith says the sickening fumes from the oil lasted for months.     John W. Poole/NPR     One of dozens of houses along the Kalamazoo River sits empty since the spill. Enbridge offered to buy up most of the property along the river immediately after the spill, and most residents sold at deflated prices to escape the area.     One of dozens of houses along the Kalamazoo River sits empty since the spill. Enbridge offered to buy up most of the property along the river immediately after the spill, and most residents sold at deflated prices to escape the area.     John W. Poole/NPR     Children fish at a newly opened recreational area built by Enbridge on the Kalamazoo River. Posted signs warn that most of the fish is not safe to eat. These children were not aware of the oil spill and were not area residents.     Children fish at a newly opened recreational area built by Enbridge on the Kalamazoo River. Posted signs warn that most of the fish is not safe to eat. These children were not aware of the oil spill and were not area residents. (John W. Poole/NPR)

Whistle-blower John Bolenbaugh wades through thick mud in the Kalamazoo River looking for leftover traces of oil from the July 2010 Enbridge tar sands pipeline spill. (credit: John W. Poole/NPR)

From an EIA perspective, a pipeline is the perfect example of the need for scenario analysis. One of the main functions of this is risk management, and Enbridge’s performance with the latter is less than mediocre. In 2010 a rupture in the company’s line 6B spilled over 3.3 million litres of oil in the Kalamazoo River in what would be the largest onland spill in the history of the Unites States (Paris, 2013). Three years after the cleanup is still not complete. What’s more, between 1999 and 2010 over 800 spills occurred on Enbridge’s pipelines and almost all of the company’s pumping stations were recently deemed non-compliant by the NEB itself (Gignac & Schepper, 2013).

One wonders why the NEB insists on leaving potential spills out of the scope when Enbridge has such a history.

Whatch this video from the Off Island Gazette where The mayor of Ste-Justine-de-Newton, Patricia Domingos, explains how Enbridge has offered communities living near its pipeline donations to improve their emergency responder services.


CBC. (2013, August 29). Pipeline   d’Enbridge : l’Ontario hausse le ton. Retrieved October 05, 2013, from CBC:

City of Montreal. (2013, Avril 22). Déclaration.   Retrieved October 05, 2013, from,d.dmg

Côté, C., &   Croteau, M. (2013, Octobre 02). Oléoduc 9 d’Enbridge: le débat s’enflamme.   Retrieved October 05, 2013, from La   Presse:

Enbridge. (2012). Enbridge’s Line 9 Pipeline:   Open House. Calgary: Enbridge.

Gignac, R., & Schepper, B. (2013). Projet d’oléoduc   de sables bitumineux « Ligne 9B » : le Québec à l’heure des choix. Montreal:   Institut de recherche et d’informations socio-économiques (IRIS).

Nadeau, J. (2013,   Octobre 04). Ligne 9B d’Enbridge – Il y aura consultation, assure le   ministre. Le Devoir.

Paris, M. (2013, September 2013). Enbridge’s   Kalamazoo cleanup dredges up 3-year-old oil spill. Retrieved October 06,   2013, from CBC:

Ruby, C. (2013, August 18). Harper government   unfairly limits public input on Enbridge pipeline. Retrieved October 05,   2013, from The Star:

Shields, A.   (2013, September 11). Inversion du pipeline – Enbridge se félicite de   l’ouverture du Québec. Le Devoir.

Stantec. (2013). Line 9B Reversal and Line 9   Capacity Expansion Project – Environmental and Socio-Economic Impact   Assessment – Addendum. Calgary: Enbridge.

A New Challenge for Social Impact Assessment – Australian Windfarms: A Case Study of Psychogenic Illness

Wind-Turbines - AustraliaSource:

Wind-Turbines – Australia

Social impact assessments (SIA) have been considered, for the most part, a component or add-on of environmental impact assessments (EIA), although some argue that in its own right is more than a process but rather a “philosophy about development and democracy” (Vanclay 2004). However, for practical purposes it has been broadly defined as a process for analysing, monitoring and managing unintended and intended social outcomes of development or planned interventions (Vanclay and Esteves 2011).

Despite its importance to project development, SIA is fraught with a unique set of limitations: inadequate involvement of stakeholders, post-impact studies demonstrating the inability of SIA to predict all impacts, failure to capture residual impacts and consequent harm to communities as well as the downtime and extra costs to proponents (Vanclay and Esteves 2011). Unfortunately, a new limitation has surfaced for practitioners of SIA in regard to health impacts: an Australian study on health impacts of wind turbines has reached the conclusion that the sickness, coined “wind-turbine syndrome”,  is more likely attributable to psychological effects and results have made mainstream news (Rourke 2013; Taylor 2013). This reverse placebo effect places a serious strain on SIA consultants: how will real and psychological health effects of project developments be separated? How can they be predicted? And, should psychological health impacts be considered equal to real health impacts on a population?

Windfarm effects on health have been recognized worldwide due to a growth in complaints by nearby residents. The video below, Wind Turbine and Health Problems, showcases this global phenomenon by discussing some of the common symptoms of wind turbines felt by Canadian residents. The study in question by Chapman et al. (2013) looked at complaints of these symptoms for 49 windfarms in Australia, including residential areas near 1616 wind turbines in total. It was found that large spatio-temporal variations exist in health complaints and farm noise. Only 1 in 272 residents living within 5 km of windfarms or a wind turbine complained; the majority of which coming from neighborhoods targeted by anti-windfarm groups. Furthermore, 82% of health and noise complaints were received after 2009 when wind farm opponents began using health effects as a lobbying strategy. These results lead the authors to conclude that, at the very least, there is evidence for psychogenic illness. Psychogenic illness has been identified as somatic symptoms, believed to be cause by an environmental trigger, varying between individuals and not related to extent of exposure which is spread by fear, anxiety and general excitement (Chapman et al. 2013).

Assuming that psychogenic illnesses can be considered social impacts in their own right, we need immediate frameworks to address this issue when conducting social impact assessments. This is especially necessary before a negative light is shone down on this form of health impact: project developers might begin to discredit the SIA process as a waste of time and costs to a process that accommodates “imagined” impacts.

Video: Wind Turbines and Health Problems
Source – “CTV News” accessed from Youtube


Chapman, S., A. St. George, K. Waller, and V. Cakic. 2013. Spatio-temporal differences in the history of health and noise complaints about Australian wind farms: evidence for the psychogenic, “communicated disease” hypothesis. Pre-Print: Submitted for publication. Sydney School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Australia.

Rourke, A. 2013, March 15.Windfarm sickness spreads by word of mouth, Australian study finds. The Guardian. Retrieved from:

Taylor, L. 2013, March 15. Wind turbine sickness ‘all in the mind’: study. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from:

Vanclay, F. and A.M. Esteves. 2011. New directions in social impact assessment: conceptual and methodological advances. In F. Vanclay and A.M Esteves (Eds.), Current issues and trends in social impact assessment. pp. 3-20. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing.

Vanclay, F. 2004. The triple bottom line and impact assessment: how do TBL, EIA, SIA, SEA and EMS relate to eachother? Journal of Environmental Assessment Policy and Management, 6(3): 265-288.

Implications of Incomprehensive Assessments: The Case of the Vienna International Airport and Apprehensive Locals


Key components of environmental impact assessments (EIAs) are the appropriate identification, projection, and significance weighting of adverse impacts that a proposed project may have (Noble 2010). It is crucial that assessments appropriately identify and consider impacts that are expected to be significant, including those that are of concern to stakeholders such as locals who may have to deal with project impacts in the long term. Proposed projects that have incomprehensive EIAs which do not adequately identify and assess such impacts—or worse yet, projects with possibly adverse impacts that lack EIAs altogether—will likely produce apprehension among active stakeholders. A case in point is the expansion of Austria’s international airport, the Vienna-Schwechat airport, and the conflict triggered by its lack of appropriate EIA.

 Vienna-Schwechat International Airport

The Vienna International Airport after several runway and terminal expansions, 2012.

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The expansion of this airport has been more or less continuous since 1995, though much to the demise of concerned stakeholders, several such expansions have not had comprehensive EIAs before recent years (Hart 2013; Dorsch Gruppe 2012). In fact, the Minister-President of Land Niederösterreich (the State of Lower Austria) declared in 2001 that EIAs were not at all required for the continued development of the airport (Hart 2013; Knook 2013). The principal controversy related to the absence of comprehensive EIAs for airport expansions in this case lies in the fact that property values for some who live near the airport have significantly decreased with no consideration due to the added noise and air pollution incurred (Hart 2013). The unease of concerned locals has only been strengthened by the obvious government bias towards completing airport expansions, as the government of Lower Austria is a large shareholder in the airport that would benefit from increased passenger capacity expansions would entail (Wurz 2010).

One homeowner whose property value in Land Niederösterreich decreased with the expansion of the airport’s runway system called much public attention to the issue when she sued Austria and Lower Austria for € 144,000 (approximately CAD $ 223,500) for not requiring that a comprehensive EIA be performed (Dotinga 2013; BOC 2013; Justis Publishing Ltd 2013). In addition to suing the republic and region, the displeased homeowner requested that proponents of further expansions to the airport who do not perform a proper EIA be liable for damages such as decreased property values (Hart 2013). Since the guidelines for an appropriate EIA do not necessitate the assessment of impacts the expansion has on property values—as specified in Artcile 3 of the EIA Directive—, the European Union’s Court of Justice ruled that proponents would not be liable for carrying out expansions in the absence of EIAs that consider such value loss (Hart 2013; Justis Publishing Ltd 2013; Knook 2013). The court suggested that in order to strengthen the argument that an absence of an adequate EIA was responsible for incurred damages, actively concerned homeowners would need to somehow prove that the performance of such an EIA would have lessened acquired property value losses—either by resulting in altered development plans or adapted behaviours of homeowners after consulting such an EIA (Hart 2013; Justis Publishing Ltd 2013). Proving this is no easy task, as many projects often carry on without avoiding impacts identified in EIAs (Hart 2013). Though the Court of Justice has had its say on the matter, the situation is to be dealt with ultimately by the national court, whose decision is currently pending (Dotinga 2013; Knook 2013).

This case is illustrative of the fact that public participation is crucial in the planning and assessment of a project, as it can help in determining impact significance and provide a mean of lessening the apprehension of stakeholders (Noble 2010). Of course in the context of expanding an airport, local stakeholders may always be concerned with potential impacts such as increases in noise and air pollution for health and monetary reasons (Wurz 2012; Dorsch Gruppe 2012). However, meaningful public involvement in the impact assessment and management process may lessen such concerns by lessening the feeling of a project’s imposition on a population, and making mitigative alternatives feasible (Noble 2010). By performing a comprehensive assessment that considered public concerns, Austria and expanders of the airport may have considered the impact of property value loss, avoided the conflict incurred with locals, as well as foregone the negative image that has come along with this internationally reported issue.


Cartoon regarding ineffective airport noise mitigation, an issue that some homeowners near airports must endure.

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