When a major infrastructure project crosses through a region, it directly or indirectly affects both the environment (biodiversity, environmental footprint) and the local populations, whose sentiments are often not obvious to the project developers. To evaluate and provide detail of these environmental and human implications, the Environmental Observatory is a programme conducted on a project over the long term, making it a sort of open-air laboratory. Aiming to deliver scientific solutions to improve the design and integration of a project in its environment, it is also an important vector to achieve resident buy-in.
- Crédits : Eiffage
Since 2015 and with a commitment running up to 2022, Egis is the project manager in charge of the Environmental Observatory of the Brittany - Pays de la Loire HSL on behalf of Eiffage Rail Express. On the occasion of the Observatory’s 5th colloquium, Stéphane Pradon, Environment Director at Egis, tells us more.
What is the aim of the Environmental Observatory?
Its aim reaches over and beyond legal obligations: it is designed to analyse and report on the project’s environmental implications. It monitors the project from its design phase through to several years after its commissioning, and comprises two major work topics defined by a scientific and technical committee: the first is “The effects of the HSL on the territory, its landscape and its population” and the second is “Biodiversity”.
What stage is the project at today?
Today, studies are still underway, in particular in the area of Environment and Living Conditions. With regard to “living conditions” a third set of studies (in the form of field surveys) will this time address how the landscape is changing around the HSL and how residents perceive it, three years down the line after its commercial launch. Since the earliest days, our Observatory work on the topic of “residents’ living environment” has followed an innovative approach that we developed several years ago: the “Living environment participative study” (download link below). We have also accompanied the project since its inception on the subject of the programming of environmental studies. We are currently supervising a postgraduate doctoral student who, as part of a Cifre thesis with Egis, is conducting research into the behaviour of amphibians in reaction to the Brittany - Pays de la Loire HSL.
What are the benefits of an Environmental Observatory?
First of all, the Environmental Observatory, unlike the LOTI impact study, is not a mission stemming from a legal obligation. It’s actually a proactive initiative by the project owner to monitor all the sociological, environmental and economic impacts caused by the project, in the long term and through innovative themes that are tailored to the requirements of the project. It’s also an efficient and pertinent tool to improve scientific environmental knowledge and to capitalise on acquired experience, and therefore it’s a chance to improve our practices and innovate.
Is the Environmental Observatory a new service offered by Egis?
Our Environment business unit does advocate the introduction of observatories on some regional planning projects, but also those on industrial sites which have a direct impact on the environment and on local populations. Our experience means that we can either work as project management consultants – for the design of the observatory in itself – or take on the role of programme manager to run the observatory in its different themes.
Stéphane Pradon, directeur Environment director at Egis