ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT IN ENGINEERING EDUCATION: A CASE STUDY
The lack of connexion between environmental subjects and professional jobs is one of the most often detected problems in Engineering students’ training in the field of Environmental Impact Assessment. In addition, clarifying and unifying criteria in developing Environmental Impact Assessment Studies become difficult because of frequent changes and differences among European, State and Regional Environmental Laws. For this reason, students find Environmental Assessment subjects difficult and unclear.
In order to solve this problem, we have designed a case study to be developed at class in the different Environmental subjects we are giving. This case study tries to show the reality in the field of writing Environmental Impact Assessment Studies by adapting them to the different environmental laws’ requirements. The aim of this experience is to train Engineering students up to latter professional activities by showing them a detailed example of how to do an Environmental Impact Assessment Study of a real project (e.g. A Wastewater Treatment Plant).
This case study is based on the available technical documents in the Spanish Government-Environmental Ministry web page. There, we have downloaded several summarized reports of different projects under construction or scheduled in a nearby future. The students will review these reports at class.
The followed procedure in the classroom consists in giving to the students a copy of the European Union Scoping and Screening Guidelines. Next, students must fill the questionnaires these Guidelines include. From these questionnaires, it is possible to obtain a list of potential environmental effects that the chosen project may generate when materialized. Once potential impacts become identified, their significance must be considered and, later, they will be characterized by taking into account the definitions that the Environmental Assessment Spanish laws have.
Considering the procedure of the Environmental Impacts Assessment Studies, This experience reaches a double goal:
- First, students become able to determine if a project needs an Environmental Impacts Assessment.
- On the other hand, students identify the most important environmental aspects and, then, they are able to remark the aspects that need special attention in order to minimize the project’s affection in the natural environment.
In addition, in a didactic point of view, we aim to keep the students in an active attitude by promoting motivation, participation and self-learning, as basic tools to the students’ academic success.
In the end, the case study we describe in this paper was developed in the past 2007/2008 academic year and it consisted in the identification and characterization of the main Environmental Impacts of a Desalination Plant Project. In our opinion, the experience has been completely satisfying.