Mitigation of impacts on biodiversity
This includes any action(s) taken to avoid, reduce or eliminate adverse effects, whether by controlling the sources of impacts, or the exposure of biological receptors to them
Alternative ways of meeting the need
Changes in planning and design
Improving monitoring and management
The mitigation hierarchy
'Anticipate and prevent' not 'assess and repair'
Take an outcome-orientated approach.
- Pursue a different option
- Site based on least damage criteria
- Avoid disturbance of important/sensitive areas (e.g. protected habitat)
- Time activities to avoid critical periods (e.g. avoid nesting, breeding period)
For instance, use of alternative technological options: recognizing the ecological benefits of horizontal direction drilling technology over the open cut method for laying pipeline across a river (pictured right).
Reduction, moderation, minimization
- Substitution of techniques
- Promoting bio-friendly technologies
- Regulated access during construction or operation to control disturbance (see pictures below).
Bridges do not have to be just for traffic: eco-friendly bridges have been proposed to enable wildlife to safely cross a railway and main road in India's Rajaji National Park (pictured here).Proposed eco-friendly bridge for Rajaji NP. Image © A.P. Singh
Alternatives at the planning stage may be useful in offsetting biodiversity losses.
Repair, re-instate, restore
Some instances: the restoration of mine overburden dumps using geo-textile in India.
The use of coco-fibre to trap silt.
Some instances: the creation of wetland habitat in a mine void.
Creative management of alternative sites.
Enhance existing degraded habitats and create additional habitats to partially offset the loss of those removed by a project.
Create new habitat on alternative sites (re-vegetation of vacant lands, landfills, exposed rocks).
Enhance habitat use and value.
Types of offsets activities
Enhancing protected area protection or management e.g. by replanting degraded areas/ strengthening management capacity.
Safeguarding unprotected areas: entering into agreements with local communities or creating new protected areas.
Addressing underlying causes of biodiversity loss: working with communities to address livelihood needs to support alternative livelihood to stop unsustainable activities.
Establishing corridors/ migration paths eg securing conservation management of land between protected areas.
Establishing buffer zones
Entering into land management agreements with private land owners.
Benefits of biodiversity offsets
Better balancing of costs and benefits of conservation and economic developments
Opportunities for national governments to fulfil commitments under Millennium development goals and Convention on Biodiversity
License to operate, new market opportunities and competitive advantages
For conservation communities
A mechanism to reconcile conservation into development planning and biodiversity into the investment plans
More incentives to promote in situ conservation initiatives and better conservation outcomes
Focussing on high biodiversity value habitat and conservation priorities instead of highly compromised sites
Ground rules for developing biodiversity offsets
- Offsets are no substitute for "no go" areas
- Offsets are not a project negotiation tool
- Offsets follow the principle of 'like for like or better'
- Biodiversity offsets should follow the mitigation hierarchy
Trade-offs have to be made at an appropriate scale.
Examples of country-specific regulatory mechanisms
Wetland Banking in the USA under the Clean Water Act 1972 and the US Army Corps of Engineers.
Conservation Banking in the US under the Endangered Species Act and Guidance on Establishment, Use and Operations of Conservation Banks
Developer must first avoid and then ensure restoration of prior wetlands, enhancement of low quality wetlands and creation of new wetlands.
Each hectare of wetland damaged or destroyed must be replaced
Habitats and Birds Directives and implementing regulations in the EU under Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora and Council Directive 79/409/EEC.
The Environmental Liability Directive makes specific reference to biodiversity and operates on the 'polluter pays principle' requiring companies to undertake compensation for environmental damage or imminent environmental damage.
No set criteria, but offsets must ensure that the overall coherence of the Natura 2000 network is protected.
Tradable Forest Conservation Obligations in Brazil under the Forest Regulation and National System of Conservation Units under Lei No 4771 of 1965; Lei No 14.247 of 22/7/2002, Lei No 9.985 of 18/7/2000, Decre to No. 4.340 of 22/8/2002.
Regulations require rural property to maintain a forest reserve of at least 20%.
Where a development has a significant environmental impact, it must compensate for this by supporting a unit within a National System of Conservation Units (SNUC).
The sum paid depends on the degree of environmental impact of the project. It must be at least 0.5% the total investment costs and in rainforest areas may be above 6%.
Proposed protected areas as biodiversity offsets
Features of the new protected area:
- All vegetation communities in submergence zone are represented
- All large mammal species present in the project area have been recorded
- Incorporates the only residual portion of free river between Narmadasagar and Omkareshwar projects