Specific Feature of Environmental Impact Assessment: The Role of Landscape

The specific feature of EIA in the Slovak Republic is that great emphasis is put on the landscape, which coincides with the environment (see the definition of the landscape, following). The quality of the landscape is considered as equivalent to the quality of the environment. Interpretation of landscape in the assessment is fully compatible with the concept of sustainability, which is the basis of impact assess­ment. The process is based on three dimensions in terms of sustainable develop­ment: the environmental dimension, the social dimension, and the economic dimension.

Generally, the relationship of humans to the landscape is complicated. Mankind was born in the natural landscape and its biological and spiritual existence depends on it. The human population is an inseparable part of the landscape. Positioning of people in the landscape is determined by their physiological dependence on it (air, water, food, and all other landscape elements necessary for humans). Landscape also provides shelter to humans and is their home. It is an existential relationship. On the other hand, the landscape is the direct (primary production) or indirect (secondary production and the following production levels) object of human work. This relationship to the landscape is given by humans, creators of material things. The first relationship is of primary importance for humans and corresponds with the concept of sustainability. Failure to consider this connection as a criterion for decision making about the use of natural resources and the landscape has led the present society to the global environmental crisis. This is the reason why this specific approach, which relies on the concept of sustainability, is in the Slovak Republic a determining one in valuation of the landscape for any purpose (Drdos 2005).

As the landscape is the living environment of humans, the environmental impact assessment also considers humans (affected population) and their activities along with the landscape. Also, without knowledge regarding humans and their activities it is impossible to identify correctly anthropogenic phenomena and changes in the landscape.

The effect (impact) influences (Drdos 2005) the natural landscape components (natural effects); landscape (as geosystem and ecosystem), its structure and use (geosystemic effects); protected territories and elements of the territorial system of ecological stability (ecozoological effects); image of the landscape (visual effects); population (social effects); economy and its branches (economic effects); and material and immaterial components of culture (cultural effects). Such classifica­tion of impacts fully reflects the analytical procedures applied to the landscape – ecological studies.