Social Surroundings Assessments
Western Australia's Environmental Protection Act 1986 requires an assessment of the 'social surroundings' of a project in any environmental impact assessment (EIA) process. The EPA's aim is to 'protect the social surroundings from significant harm'. The intention is that the social surroundings of any proposed activity are not 'significantly affected' by that activity.
Anthropologists play a key role in this assessment process by firstly identifying what the 'social surroundings' are (i.e. the social locality in question) and then looking at what environmental and cultural factors intersect within the activity area, and finally, attempt to quantify those values in order to measure or assess the levels / acceptablity of harm to those elements (i.e. harm to the environment and its cultural values through dust, noise, light, vibation or other negative impacts).
There are numerous ways to quantify and understand the impact to the social surroundings, as well as mitigation measures, and this can be through:
- Anthropological and/or archaeological surveys, cultural values assessments and proposed impact avoidance and mitigation measures
- Describing natural and historical heritage values that may be impacted, as well as proposed avoidance and mitigation measures
- Undertaking landscape and visual impact assessment studies based on recognised methodology
- Analysing, modelling and predicting of impacts from odour, dust and noise, including likely impacts during, worst, best and most likely case scenarios
- Characterisation of proximity to sensitive receptors
- Summary of proposed technologies, emission reduction equipment and management practices that may be utilsed
- A description of proposed management and monitoring arrangements
- An analysis of cumulative impacts, including existing and reasonably forseeable emission sources.