The wider consideration of environmental effects and alternatives in early stages of decision-making has been pointed as one of the major benefits of Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA). Adopted by virtually all of developed countries and sprawling around emergent and developing ones, it is recognized that SEA effectiveness is attached to its systematic application in development plans and programmes. Brazil and many developing countries have different experiences with this instrument and lacks of definition of a procedural framework to promote the use of SEA in strategic levels of decision. As a consequence development projects are frequently “threatened” by impact assessment outcomes, especially when a mandatory project-EIA has to inform decisions. In order to contribute to the implementation of SEA in developing countries, the present paper discusses the potential benefits of using SEA in transport infrastructure plans and programmes, through a case study applied to transport plans in the state of Sao Paulo (south-eastern Brazil). The outcomes indicate that SEA could contribute to improve infrastructure impact assessments, minimizing social and environmental conflicts, augmenting the acceptability of projects and decisions, reinforcing the need for SEA to be systematically implemented in Brazil.
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