Environmental impact assessment and ranking the environmental projects in Jordan

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  • Theory and Methodology

    Environmental impact assessment and ranking the environmentalprojects in Jordan

    Dina Al-Rashdan, Bashar Al-Kloub, Angela Dean, Tarik Al-Shemmeri *

    School of Engineering, Staordshire University, Beaconside, P.O. Box 333, Staord ST18 0DF, UK

    Received 20 February 1996; accepted 28 August 1996


    The Nominal Group Technique as a structured group decision process and PROMETHEE as a Multi-Criteria

    Decision Aid software are utilised to develop a reliable methodology to prioritise environmental projects in Jordan and

    to evaluate their environmental impacts. This methodology is novel in that it integrates the various analytical decision

    management techniques in order to increase the flexibility and eciency of the environmental planning. This meth-

    odology is then implemented on a sample of wastewater projects in Jordan, and the results are discussed. 1999Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

    Keywords: Environmental impact assessment; Multi-criteria decision aid

    1. Introduction

    Jordan has very fragile environmental resourc-es, and many are undergoing unsustainable levelsof exploitation due to a high rate of populationgrowth, consequent rise in demand, which threatenthe viability of the countrys environmental re-sources and the quality of life for the generalpublic and more severely the poor. The most im-portant class of Jordans environmental problemsare water related (e.g. salination, sewage and waterpollution) and these pose a real threat to publichealth, agriculture, and industrial activity. The

    scarcity of water resources and issues related toquality are creating environmental problems atlocal, regional and international levels. Numerousstudies have appeared detailing the extent of de-gradation of natural resources and the need tolook for alternative sources of water (Salameh,1991; Al-Kloub and Al-Shemmeri, 1994, 1995).These studies have emphasised the rapid deterio-ration of these resources, especially water.

    The Jordanian government is well aware thatsound environmental policies have a direct positiveimpact on the sustainable development of thecountry. A number of studies has been commis-sioned with the aim of identifying environmentalissues and determining enhancement options invarious sectors. Amongst these the National En-vironmental Strategy, prepared in 1992, was an

    European Journal of Operational Research 118 (1999) 3045www.elsevier.com/locate/orms

    * Corresponding author. Tel.: +44-17-853-5335; fax: +44-17-

    855-7073; e-mail: t.t.al-shemmeri@stas.ac.uk

    0377-2217/99/$ see front matter 1999 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.PII: S 0 3 7 7 - 2 2 1 7 ( 9 7 ) 0 0 0 7 9 - 9

  • important first step for Jordan in confrontingenvironmental problems. Formulated by some180 Jordanian specialists; it catalogues all envi-ronmental resources and problems and containsover 400 specific recommendations and suggestedactions in the field of environmental protectionand conversation. However, the strategy was notable to set priorities for the suggested actions, fi-nancial costs had not been calculated and insti-tutional capacity issues had not been addressed.In addition a draft environmental law was pre-pared in 1994 and is currently being examined bythe Jordanian Parliament. The law provides aframework for environmental management andthe establishment of sectoral legislation. It out-lines the basic objectives, the roles of concernedauthorities, and the procedures for developing,adopting and monitoring environmental stan-dards.

    Water scarcity is becoming a significantconstraint to development and the ongoing de-velopment process involves further resources ex-ploitation, especially through the use of newtechnologies which may inflict serious environ-mental damage (i.e depleting fossil aquifers).Currently Jordan utilises over 93% of its availableground resources (pumping exceeds safe yields inmany cases) and more than 80% of the total sur-face resources. The stresses on the water environ-ment stem from two main pressure factors: thewitnessed deterioration of water quality, and thecurrent and projected imbalance in the supply/de-mand equation (aggregated by dierent enablingfactors) as shown in Fig. 1. Recent pollutionstudies in Jordan stress the need for significantwork to protect surface and ground water fromenvironmental degradation. Such degradationtakes the form of contamination from seepage ofwastes into surface streams and salination frommining ground water aquifers. In the summer of1991, around $85 million worth of agriculturalproducts were destroyed due to the inadvertent useof the polluted irrigation water in the Jordan val-ley. Any future contamination of the various waterresources could possibly cost Jordan an unaord-able price just to reverse the contamination processand bring the water quality back to acceptablestandards.

    2. Environmental management in Jordan

    An overview of the current environmentalmanagement framework shows the followingcharacteristics:1. A weak institutional framework with little ad-

    ministrative capacities.2. Limited environmental legislation and mecha-

    nisms to define and enforce environmental reg-ulations and standards.

    3. A comprehensive National EnvironmentalStrategy which defines a large number of pro-jects without providing priorities or a method-ological framework for priority setting.

    4. Uncoordinated environmental actions support-ed by dierent international donors, and amongthe dierent government agencies.

    3. Approaches to setting priorities

    Setting priorities for new projects is a complextask, since there is generally not enough availableinformation to assess or forecast resulting envi-ronmental problems and their impact on theeconomy or society. Therefore, strategic decisionshave to be made with high levels of uncertainty.Furthermore, there is a limit to the resources (fi-nancial, institutional, technical, human) that canbe made available for environmental management.Following the current peace process in the MiddleEast, an increase in economic activity is expectedwhich will result in new projects with significantenvironmental impacts. The impacts of predictiontools such as the environmental assessment andplanning to mitigate these impacts to a lower coston the society is vital.

    A first step in identifying priorities involvesseeking consensus on the countrys critical en-vironmental problems among the dierent bene-ficiaries and to establish the environmentalobjectives. It is important to choose appropriateprojects and policy instruments to achieve theobjectives and to address the underlying causes ofthese environmental problems.

    Given the limited resources available for envi-ronmental management, the Jordanian decisionmaker is confronted with dierent dilemmas. The

    D. Al-Rashdan et al. / European Journal of Operational Research 118 (1999) 3045 31

  • first is how many issues to address? The risk ofchoosing to act on a large number of issues is thatnone of them might receive the critical mass ofattention needed for a breakthrough solution;choosing a few issues to focus on means that someenvironmental problems might be totally neglectedfor a while.

    The second is whether to invest in addressingproblems of the past rather than preventing futureproblems. Correcting environmental problemsmight be costly, but there might be more aware-ness of an existing problem, and the expectedoutcomes of the corrective action are known.Prevention is less expensive, but the awareness andunderstanding of the problem might be limited,aecting the willingness to invest in them.

    The third is if a decision should be made toinvest primarily in problems that are uniquelyJordanian or to significantly participate in regionalenvironmental programmes and contribute toglobal issues. Finally, how much emphasis shouldbe placed on short-term direct, physical manage-

    ment actions as compared to investing in a long-term building of the tools and capacities for envi-ronmental management.

    Concentrating on a single objective as a basisfor priority setting is not realistic because of thecomplex and interdependent relationships of en-vironmental economic and socio-political factors.Profit is often the dominant criterion in todaysinvestments and often becomes equal in impor-tance to other environmental criteria. The Multi-Criteria Decision Aid (MCDA) has been devel-oped as a mathematical tool to prioritise projectsand to satisfy the broad objectives which aresometimes non-commensurable and conflict innature.

    4. Environmental impact assessment (EIA)

    EIA was developed in the 1950s, and in January1970 the USA had become the first country in theworld to adopt requiring EIA on major projects

    Fig. 1. Problem analysis (causeeect relationship) of non-sustainable development of water resources.

    32 D. Al-Rashdan et al. / European Journal of Operational Research 118 (1999) 3045

  • (Canter, 1977). Since 1970 the growth of EIAlegislation and methods has been quite phenome-nal. By 1976 there were some 89 methodologies(Canter, 1977), and since that time more method-ologies have been developed. The currently avail-able environmental impact assessment methodsare generally not appropriate for developingcountries. The methodologies should incorporaterequirement for social, climatic, and culturalcharacteristics to enable developing countries tocarry out EIA within the limited costs and exper-tise available. In addition, the need for preparingcase studies from developing countries was high-lighted in many occasions.

    Three analytical functions are associated withEIA: identification, prediction and evaluation.Identification methods include checklists, matricesand networks. These methods can assists in spec-ifying the range of impacts that may occur, in-cluding their spatial dimensions and time periods,and generally answer questions concerning thecomponents of the project and what elements ofthe environment may be aected by these compo-nents.

    Predictive methodologies involve the greatestapplication of technology, this includes identifica-tion of environmental modifications that may besignificant, forecasting of the quantity and/orspatial dimensions of the change in the environ-ment, and estimation of the probability thatimpacts will occur. Such methods include quanti-tative predictive methods for the biological,cultural and socio-economic environments.

    Evaluation methods are based on the evaluationof the incidence of costs and benefits to user groups,population aected by the projects and the com-parison of the trade-os between the various al-ternatives. These include methods like cost-benefitanalysis, Battele environmental evaluation system,Georgia optimum pathway matrix (Canter, 1977),and Multi-criteria methods (Bana e Costa, 1990).

    The following sections demonstrate the use ofMulti-Criteria Environmental Impact Assessmentmethods to bring better solutions to the pressingenvironmental problems in Jordan since they takeinto account a variety of other view points apartfrom the cost involved after describing the currentmulti-criteria methods.

    5. Multi-criteria methods

    A variety of multi-criteria methods has beenused in dealing with environmental problems.Merkhofer and Keeney (1987) used a traditionalmulti-attribute analysis in determining sites forthe disposal of nuclear waste; Briggs et al. (1990)used the PROMETHEE and GAIA methodswithin nuclear waste management; Stam et al.(1992) applied Wierzbickis reference point meth-od in studying transboundary air pollution inEurope.

    Details on the earlier development, and the newdirections in the field of multi-criteria analysis canbe found in Roy and Vincke (1981), Bana e Costa(1990), Vincke (1992) and Maystre et al. (1994).Current methods can be classified into four types:distance based, utility or value functions, outrank-ing and mixed. The distance based identifies so-lutions which are closest to the ideal solution asdetermined by some measure of distance; theutility or value functions attempt to model math-ematically a decision makers preference structureby a utility function (if the problem is stochastic)or a value function (if the problem is determinis-tic), and these functions can be used to identifypreferred solution. The outranking methodsevolved due to the limitations of the traditionalmethods mainly as the border-line between what isand what is not feasible is often fuzzy, or fre-quently modified, and the decision makers pref-erences very seldom sure. These methods arebased on the idea that the decision aid cannot bereduced to problem solving. Finally, the mixedmethods where dierent ideas and interactivemethods are utilised. A tendency has been ob-served that the outranking methods are mostsuccessful because of their adaptability to realproblems and the fact that they are more easilycomprehended by the decision makers. One of theuser friendly computerised methods is thePROMETHEE method developed by Brans andMareschal (1986). In addition, an initial investi-gation which was carried out to select the mostappropriate MCDA method for ranking environ-mental projects revealed that PROMETHEE isthe best technique (Internal Report, StaordshireUniversity, TAS/BK9).

    D. Al-Rashdan et al. / European Journal of Operational Research 118 (1999) 3045 33

  • 5.1. The PROMETHEE method

    The PROMETHEE outranking method (Pref-erence Ranking Organisation METHod for En-richment Evaluation) was adopted for use in thisstudy. This method is software driven, user-friendly, provides direct interpretation of param-eters, and a sensitivity analysis of results. ThePROMETHEE method incorporates the followingsteps (Brans and Mareschal, 1986):1. Building an evaluation matrix for the projects

    according to a set of criteria.2. Enrichment of the preference structure by in-

    troducing generalised criteria to remove scalingeects.

    3. Enrichment of the dominance relation by build-ing: a multi-criteria preference index to express to

    which degree an option is preferred to anoth-er;

    an associate outranking graph and outrank-ing flow to express how each option relatesto the other options (strengths and weakness-es of the option).

    4. Exploitation for decision aid. PROMETHEEI provides a partial ranking, including possi-ble incomparabilities. PROMETHEE II showscomplete ranking of options. PROMETHEEV extends the application of PROMETHEEII method to the problem of selection of sev-eral options to satisfy a set of constraints.

    5. The GAIA program (Geometrical Analysis forInteractive Aid) provides a geometrical pre-sentation of results obtained by PROME-THEE. GAIA is based on reducing themulti-dimensional criteria plane with to allowdirect visual presentation. Furthermore, it of-fers interactive dialogue with the user to varycertain parameters and displays the resultingchanges.

    6. The proposed methodology, and results

    The methodology consists of four steps asshown in Fig. 2. It is a prescriptive requisite anal-ysis (French, 1989; Phillips, 1982) to guide the

    evolution of decision makers perceptions in adynamic and cyclic process. The de...


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