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Environmental assessment from an environmental justice perspective: analysing the impacts of major urban projects in Brazil

Verri Boratti, L; (2017) Environmental assessment from an environmental justice perspective: analysing the impacts of major urban projects in Brazil. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

Major urban projects associated with sporting mega-events have set the tone for the urban agenda of local governments in Brazil since the country was announced as the host of FIFA’s Football World Cup 2014 and the Olympics 2016. Development consent for these projects is at the core of rising urban-environmental conflicts over development goals and the uneven distribution of costs and benefits of urbanization. Environmental assessment (EA) operating within this political and developmental agenda plays a central role. EA governs the gathering of information, predicting impacts, defining and calculating mitigating and compensatory measures and engaging publics in decision-making, and in carrying out each of these aspects it may produce or reinforce distributional effects. In light of this, this thesis explores the extent to which the regulatory regime and practice of project-level EA can assist in securing environmental justice, particularly when operating within the planning control process for major urban projects in specific and local socio-political contexts. The thesis offers insights into both theory (Part I) and practice (Part II) of EA in terms of the degree to which it is able to incorporate the different dimensions of environmental justice. Part I focuses on developing a theoretically-informed framework of project-level EA in the context of urban-environmental decisionmaking by integrating social justice, environmental justice and urban-spatial justice as key elements of law and policy in the consent regime for major urban projects. In Part II, this is explored empirically by employing socio-legal methodology (comprised of qualitative research based on case study analysis) in the examination of Brazil’s EA regime. The cases selected involve two major urban developments (the redevelopment and expansion of an avenue as part of the improvement of key transport links and the construction of a football arena, supported by the building of real estate) in one specific city in Brazil (Porto Alegre). Both developments took place in the context of preparations for hosting the World Cup. The empirical research comprised gathering and analysing qualitative data on the development consent and environmental licensing procedures documentation, in particular the content of environmental impact reports. Drawing on empirical and qualitative research methods used to compile the case studies, the key conclusion is that EA offers a central and critical stage for voicing urban-environmental conflicts: how the benefits and burdens of a development endeavour – economic, social, environmental, and cultural – are unevenly shared among different population groups in the cities. I argue that if EA, operating within development consent for urban development, is to incorporate urban-environmental justice concerns, distributional aspects, land rights, participation and just distribution of benefits and burdens of urbanization have to be taken into consideration. The case studies indicate that problems arise in this regard when the practice of EA fails to take such information into account, or when the EA process is embedded in the use of development consent arrangements in order to ensure predictability for developers and speed up decision-making, even though this is to the detriment of a thorough impact assessment and consistent public participation. Specific issues highlighted by examining the case study developments include the partial nature of participation requirements and the timing upon the calculation of mitigation and compensatory measures. In summary, the EA procedures researched show up that although socialeconomic and environmental impacts were capable of forming part of the process, these issues were not well studied in terms of how the impacts are felt differently amongst particular groups, particularly those most vulnerable to socio-environmental impacts.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Environmental assessment from an environmental justice perspective: analysing the impacts of major urban projects in Brazil
Event: UCL (University College London)
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Laws
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1551631
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