Application and Prospect of Geographical Information System in Strategic Environmental Assessment

Hong-tao BAI, He XU


Strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is a new and promising tool to evaluate the possible environmental impacts and other sustainability aspects of government policies, plans and programs as well as their alternatives, aiming at the effectively integration of environmental concerns into their decision-making processes. It is recognized that spatial issues are always evolved in the SEA process for the reason that the strategic decision-maker pays much attention to the geographical distribution of various impacts. The essential features of strategic decisions, such as the macro-scale on time and geography, complexity of spatial information and social-economic-environmental multiplex system, are leading to the insufficiency of traditional EIA-based methods in assisting strategic decision-making. SEA practitioners have to seek for more effective approaches to handle the spatial uncertainties. Geographical information system (GIS), integrating computer design and database technology, is able to gather, simulate, analyze and display spatial information effectively, and provides a technological support to the synthesized evaluation and quantitative analysis. Based on the statement of SEA conception and characteristics, the author employs a detailed discussion on the advantages of GIS in SEA process and finds that GIS can not only help SEA operators to grasp the macro-scale of time and geography of strategic decisions much better, but also provide visible and intuitionistic displays on the spatial information to make decision-makers and publics understanding and accepting final conclusions much easier. Meanwhile, the author indicates that GIS with various tools, simulation models and powerful spatial analysis functions, can contribute to a more scientific, synthetic forecast and cumulative effects evaluation; provide much more quantitative analysis and improve the reliability of SEA results. Finally, the challenges and prospects of GIS in SEA process are presented in this paper. Key words: Strategic environmental assessment; Geographical information system; Information display; Spatial analysis Financial supports from National Social Sciences Fund (NSSF) in China: Research on Circular Economy Based on Win-win of Economic Development and Ecological Environmental Protection (06&ZD029) are highly appreciated.


Strategic environmental assessment; Geographical information system; Information display; Spatial analysis

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