Challenges at the early stages of the environmental licensing procedure and potential contributions from geomorphology

Pereira, Cristina I.Milanes, Celene B.Sardá, Rafael Cuker, BemjaminBotero, Camilo M.  Geoscience Frontiers 12 : 101228 (2021)  DIGITAL CSIC  

Defining impact significance is the main technical task that influences decision-making during the Environmental Licensing Procedure (ELP). The ELP begins with screening to determine potentially significant impacts of the proposed project. Scoping then follows to address any interventions deemed worthy of attention in the production of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). This will include consideration of relevant landforms and geomorphological processes. However, preliminary assessments of environmental impacts often lack the scientific robustness to procure substantive and transactive effectiveness. This review presents an examination of the established practices of screening and scoping while highlighting the foremost challenges to improve the technical grounds of the ELP. The analysis of screening and scoping practices stresses the need for novel methods that ensure the sequential reasoning between their criteria while improving the preliminary evaluation of impact significance. Reducing the inherent subjectivity of discretionary judgment requires scientific methodologies that acknowledge the interaction between the natural system and human interventions, which has been addressed by geomorphological research. The knowledge consolidated in this review opens the gate to explore the compatibility between the United Nations strategy of Ecosystem Approach (EA) with the ELP through a novel geomorphological interpretation of the EIA. Therefore, this diagnosis demonstrate that screening and scoping practices would benefit from reliable methods that balance the precautionary principle with the efficient character required in the ELP.