Seminar - Ramaswamy Nagarajan - Modelling Community Perceptions of Large Projects Using Soft Computing Tools
Wednesday, August 28, 2002, 1.10 - 1.50 pm
Civil Engineering Lecture Room 3
How to make community your project partner?
In past 4 decades, environment has become a matter of serious global concern. There is greater awareness of environment in communities everywhere. At the same time, many large projects, built with government approvals, have had significant adverse impact on the environment. The local communities affected by these activities have felt helpless. The formal introduction of community consultation as part of the process for seeking approval for large projects is meant to redress this grievance. The legislative framework such as the NEPA 1969 in the US and the EPA 1979 in NSW as well as regulatory bodies such as the EPA and DUAP have also been set up to support the community consultation and pollution control processes.
Traditional decision models for projects have been based on considering communities as part of the project environment, addressing community concerns as project constraints to be satisfied. And, as part of the planning phase of the project, project proponents go through the necessary processes, including Environmental Impact Assessment, for obtaining approvals. However, there has been a growing sense of distrust of bureaucrats and government ministers; and the affected communities have not found the solutions provided by proponents necessary or acceptable. These have led to public protests, changes to projects, delays in project implementation and increasing project costs. Examples of such projects in NSW include the M5 East Motorway and the Northside Storage Tunnel built by Sydney Water.
There is, thus, a need to take community concerns into consideration in the project planning stage. Indeed, this is now acknowledged and many projects are beginning the community consultation process in the project formulation phase. The question still remains whether lessons from past can be used for predicting community perceptions and whether such data can be utilised for developing a computational model to support project planners and decision makers.
This study attempts to answer the above questions. The figure overleaf shows where the feedback regarding community perception fits in the overall decision making process in the project planning phase. In the first phase of this study, the researcher will develop a soft computing model using environmental impact as input/stimulus and community representation data as output/response from a selection of past projects. Data regarding community values and trialling with the on-going projects will be taken up in the second phase.