Monday, 29 March 2010

Social Impact Assessment Development for Road Projects in Thailand

Infrastructure projects are utilized for public that played an important role for development in any country. Due to the lack of construction resources or financial allocation, the feasibility study is used to decide which project is the most effective. Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was regulated on legal framework in many countries before constructing the project. The EIA study of the project is normally assessed the impacts which are typically in environment. Presently the social and economic impacts are increasing in attention from the public. EIA includes the socio-economic and partly the social study. This creates some confusion on what are the differences between EIA and SIA (Social Impact Assessment).

In Thailand, the feasibility of highway projects has mostly focused on the EIA which only includes the small part of social dimension. In fact, EIA deems the social changes and indirect social impacts but it is not SIA; so that the real social impacts are not covered. The Department of Highways (Thailand) hired the consultant companies to conduct merely the feasibility study and environmental impact assessment of some of the highway projects. These studies gave some social attentions; but not fully covered because they only studied on the social changes or indirect impacts from biological changes which in terms of the public health; property compensation; socio- economic; aesthetic; tourism. For example, the view of public health concerns only pollution occurred during the construction phrase but neglects the accessibility of local people to the health facilities. In the aspect of property compensation, it is reported only how much cost of compensation is or how many relocated area are that is neglected the cohesion of community, structure of institution, interaction among people. This is shown that the recent feasibility study requires further consideration on SIA.

Thailand faces the above problems when conducting SIA. Miss Siriporn Sumonwattanadej conducted a study which was focused on modifying the feasibility standards guidelines to be more completed and able to reflect the nature of local environment. The main objective of her research is to develop the specific guidelines of SIA for road transportation in Thailand. The secondary objectives of her study are as follows:
(1) To review the current SIA implementation of road projects in Thailand
(2) To examine the gap between SIA guidelines from Thailand and other countries
(3) To map between the current SIA implementation from other countries with existing guidelines from Thailand for assessing social impacts.
(4) To recommend the new SIA guideline for Thailand.


The Current SIA Implementation in Thailand

The collected EIA feasibility study of road projects in Thailand plays attentions on social concerns in terms of land use, quality of life, and public participation. Social impacts herein are resulted from the changes of environment. Land use impacts mainly focus direct impacts from expropriation such as residents, agriculture area, and commercial area. Quality of life emphases impact assessment from pollution and relocation of facilities and services. The public participation is conducted for surveying people’s attitude and needs, and informing the relocated people. Both negative and positive impacts are studied by EIA study, however negative impacts are mainly considered. Impact analysis of this study generally assesses direct impacts because further analysis requires budget, researches, models, tools or techniques.

Usefulness of Developed SIA Guideline
Usefulness of SIA guideline is retrieved by comparing between the existing SIA implementation and the proposed SIA guideline. The existing scopes of social assessments are identified boarder. Developed guideline is proposed to fit for road projects in Thailand. It yields usefulness below:

a) Clear Impact Identification - Main methodology of guideline development is use data sorting and data mapping; the impacts are sorted into the developed matrix.

b) Assessment in Community Level - The existing community profile uses questionnaires in sampling groups to draw community characteristics. This method is economic for developing countries.

c) Assessment in Actual Land Use of Community - The SIA guideline assesses not only property expropriation but also people’s living on their land use. Living of people related to their land use is condition of resident, agriculture activities, and operation of religious rituals. Mobility and accessibility of residents in community are assessed. The land use is not only physical aspect but also psychological aspect; so that religious rituals are accounted in this guideline.

d) Social Value Identification - Social values of community are subjective and unique assessment; thus residents are a key to evaluate these values.

e) Assistance Programs of Relocation - Relocation impact assessment cannot stop only fair compensation for relocated people because it is not guarantee that their replacements are enough decent living. If relocated people are low income or distinctive; they may face exploitation on their quality of life.

f) Boarder Safety Impacts - Safety of motorists is considered in engineering design; however safety impacts of residents are not accounted. SIA guideline yields boarder safety for community that considers unsafe conditions on patterns of pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists and hired motorcyclists, and users of local buses. Life of community is safe; this benefit is overestimated.

g) Boarder Economic Impacts - EIA study uses results of random sampling to draw the socioeconomic condition of study area and to predict what economic changes are. The opponents of this assessment argue that economic of community is not only income or employment but also viability of economic sectors or components.

h) Disadvantage Identification - Civil rights system between developed and developing countries are definitely different so that implementation of civil rights in developing countries consumes additional resources as limited. Actually, this is true only in one respect; but it is not a reason to neglect civil rights in feasibility study.

Limitations of Developed SIA Guideline

One of purposes in this study is SIA guideline development from the existing social concerns in EIA; thus SIA of Thailand is not fully implemented yet. This guideline can raise awareness of human and community impacts from road project; and it clearly figure out scope of impact assessments and impact indicators. It is claimed that it is not applicable for

a) Systematic Assessment - Nature of social impacts is subjective depending on characteristics of residents; so that social impacts may not be measured in numerical value. Evaluating system of SIA guideline attempts to use same systematic assessment on each impact. But it is limited because social impacts are sense evaluations of community and various kinds of impacts.

b) Multistage Assessment - Data mapping is a main process to develop SIA guideline; therefore results of impact assessments depend on characters of data sources. Collected literature studies have not clearly defined impact assessment in various stages of project; so that multistage of assessment is limited on this guideline. Nevertheless, impacts on construction and operation stages are identified in some impacts; but planning stage cannot capture what impacts are, and monitoring stage has lack of proposed assessment.

c) Data Mapping - One of expected results from data mapping is that the developed SIA guideline can identify techniques of specific impacts. It is found that the techniques are designed for assessing impacts in particular study area; so that they have limitation to apply for Thailand. Each assessment requires some special data, models, or programs to analyze effects such as land consumption standard, property price model, or computer visual simulation. These tools are not available or developed in Thailand; thus some techniques are invalid. However the proposed assessments in this guideline are developed in similar assessment concept; it means that social issues, indicators, and impact analysis can be applied.

d) Further Study - The impact assessments proposed in SIA guideline is able to reveal and mention what social impacts should be. Precise assessments require their further studies in order to analyze each impact as has been pointed out that social impacts are particular and distinctive. It is recommended that these further studies should be conducted by partial assessment of each impact category or perspective for enclosure area; so that board view of SIA will use many techniques to examine social impacts in particular or proper.

SIA Guideline Instruction

According to usefulness and limitation, instruction of SIA guideline assesses social impacts from road projects in Thailand. The guideline can assess social impacts of new road and existing road projects; its assessment mentions to assess effects from highways, motorways, and expressways. For new project, it can apply in feasibility study on alternative selection; likewise its assessment can monitor impacts from the existing roads. Instruction of SIA guideline implementation is described following.

a) SIA guideline requires project information to assess project’s effects; this adequate information is available after alignment selection in feasibility study. Therefore its assessment can evaluate social impacts during project design and alternative selection in feasibility study.

b) The checklist of SIA guideline can review what necessary data are, what impacts should be. It figures out the sensitive areas or communities in order to further assess social impacts on these areas. SIA guideline starts to assess impacts.

c) SIA guideline has two main parts: community profile and impact assessments. It assists to profile the mentioned areas or communities to collect and prepare community data for assessing impacts. The assessments use the developed profile as a baseline to consider what anticipated changes are; these changes can bring about any impacts according to guideline. These changes are associated with social conditions, economic characteristics, land use characteristics, and physical features, and relocation programs according to guideline.

d) Impact assessments propose guideline to evaluate human, economic, land use, aesthetic and livability, and relocation impacts. The identified changes can analyze their impacts by using proposed forms and questions based this guideline. It is kept in mind that social impacts are dynamic and divergent; the dynamic environment results in difficulties of data validation and impact projection. The divergent impacts are caused side effects and cumulative impacts in other impacts. Thus impact analysis should not limit only this guideline.

e) Assessment is summarized to readable documentation for disclosing to stakeholders in order to plan mitigation plans responding to these impacts.


Recommendations are proposed for success of SIA guideline implementation and further study in future. Successful SIA implementation requires effective public participation to identify subjective impacts; and cooperative environment among relevant agencies to achieve sustainable development. Monitoring of assessed impacts enhance cross-check of assessed impacts and improvement of assessments. Phrased-stages between feasibility study and road project require the compatible guideline in practice.

People or residents are vital to define what impacts are; proper public participation can enhance precision of assessment. It is recommended thus further study is how public participation is designed for consistency with this guideline.

Due to SIA regarding many stakeholders who have different orientations, cooperative environment can assist effectiveness of assessment. Stakeholders’ meetings to identify and evaluated social impacts that should be arranged.

Summary of SIA documentation cannot ensure that assessed impacts are exact and precise. Level or magnitude of impact assessment is examined whether these impacts are correct or not. This guideline can be modified or corrected by the new findings; it will more complete. The further study should specify assessment guideline for particular road types.

Phased-stages between feasibility study and road project require different SIA guideline to assess social impacts as early. This guideline is able to assess impacts after alignment selection; that means social impacts are exist from selected alignment. These impacts are assessed for mitigation; preventive assessment is limited. Thus further study should consider preventive assessment guideline; and the active guideline should match with these phased-stages.

Her thesis abstract is copied and posted.


The goal of this study is to develop social impact assessment (SIA) for road projects in Thailand. Road projects, excluding rural roads, are mandated to conduct environmental impact assessment (EIA) under Environmental Act, 1992. Environment term is expanded to integrate human living with physical natural resources; thus current EIA evaluate project’s effects in terms of land use and quality of life. Public participation is a part of EIA according to Law for articulating project’s information to affected residents. Guideline development method uses data management and data mapping by reviewing secondary data between the EIA feasibility studies of the road projects from relevant jurisdictions and the developed SIA guidelines from other countries. The new SIA guideline is developed by extending social impacts in EIA to assess indirect and cumulative impacts. It is validated by experts from these jurisdictions. It is consisted of the checklist of SIA guideline and body of SIA guideline; to estimate anticipated impacts and evaluate detail of social impacts respectively. It can assess both positive and negative impacts of new and existing road projects. It can evaluate impacts for alternative selection and since design stage of road project to operation. Monitoring and iterative assessment processes are recommended for further study.


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