The social impact analysis can address a very broad set of issues related to changes in the social, economic, and cultural condition in which the surrounding community live and work. Specific types of social issues and possible impacts associated with a project can vary considerably depending on the nature of the project, its size and location.
In other words, different projects may have a very different list of social issues. For example, a school project in a remote rural area may have a much narrower set of social impacts than a greenfield toll road that crosses several communities. In all cases, experienced professionals should use their technical judgment to determine which issues should be subject to inquiry. The following list is a minimum set of socials issues, which should be addressed as a part of the social feasibility exercise.
- Will the project produce any population or demographic movement, such as the change in size of the communities affected by the project?
- Will the project significantly alter the economic structure of the local economy or generate any significant change in relative prices, such as land value? What kind of social impacts can these economic changes produce?
- Will there be a significant change in the general access that the communities have to natural resources, such as drinking water and energy?
- Does the local community have effective governance mechanisms to deal with the long-term effects of the project in areas such as land use regulation, negotiations over business transactions, and other such issues?
- Will the project increase or decrease the demand for public goods or services, such as education or health?
- Are there groups (indigenous groups, women, ethnic minorities, and so on) who will be differentially impacted by the project?
- Will the project interfere with the local labour market during or after construction?
- Does the background of project staff (for example, urban, educated, skilled, foreign language-speaking, expatriates, different customs, and so on) differ significantly from local communities and provide potential for misunderstanding and conflict? and
- Will an influx of newcomers seeking opportunities associated with the project disrupt traditional social structures and create undesirable effects, such as crime, violence, disease, or conflict due to religious and ethnic rivalries?
The answer to these questions can help to determine the extent of the impact, as well as any unmanageable social obstacles ahead of the project. This allows for the anticipation of any adverse significant social effects of the infrastructure and for avoiding, minimizing, or offsetting them. See box 4.11 for the six principles of social impact assessment.
BOX 4.11: The Six Principles of the Social Impact Assessment (SIA)
Principle 1: Achieve extensive understanding of local and regional populations and settings to be affected by the proposed action, program, or policy.
Principle 2: Focus on the key elements of the human environment related to the proposed action, program, or policy.
Principle 3: The Social Impact Assessment is based upon sound and replicable scientific research concepts and methods. The SIA process subscribes to the ethic that good science (scholarship) will lead to informed and better decisions.
Principle 4: Provide quality information for use in decision-making. The ‘good science’ ethic requires the collection of quality data representative of all issues and perspectives, as well as clearly-presented, holistic and transparent analyses of information and alternatives.
Principle 5: Ensure that any environmental justice issues are fully described and analyzed. SIA practitioners must identify the disadvantaged, at risk, and minority populations (for instance, by race, national origin, gender, disability, and religion) affected by the proposed action, program, or policy and incorporate information about these populations into the Social Impact Assessment descriptions and analyses.
Principle 6: Undertake project, program, or policy monitoring and evaluation, and propose mitigation measures if needed. Use of the research design and databases established for the assessment of impacts should provide the basis for monitoring and evaluating the actual impacts of the chosen alternative (project).