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What is a project ?

What is a project ?

A project is ‘a proposal for doing something’ or ‘a scheme of work’. A project aims to reach a specific goal, from a defined starting point, within a given time frame, with specified inputs (e.g. money, manpower). It is a means by which the ideas and objectives of policy are converted into practical reality.

A project can stand alone or be related to a number of other projects or activities in a programme.

A project may comprise a number of tasks; these tasks are integrated with each other and do not stand alone.

In turn, a task may comprise a number of separate activities.

Hard vs Soft projects

A project may involve ‘hard’ activities - construction or building works - often referred to as a capital project. Capital projects involve an investment that may have a life of many years.
Examples: a new water treatment plant, a dam, a waste incinerator.

Or it may involve ‘soft’ activities – management, institutional development, training, etc. These projects often may involve continuing expenditure over a period of years, but not give rise to a capital asset.
Examples: managing a site of special environmental interest, training in environmental awareness. Running an energy advice service.

A project may also involve a combination of both types. All hard projects have associated operation and maintenance costs.
Examples: a home insulation programme, a boiler efficiency improvement, controlling pollution from a contaminated site.

A project may charge for its project or service, thereby generating revenue income. Such a project is described as “revenue earning” or “income generating”. A project is economically viable when over time revenues exceed the costs if operation, maintenance and paying back any initial investment.
Examples: a visitor centre in a country park might charge admission fees and sell souvenirs.

Projects can vary enormously in scale and complexity both technically and in terms of funding. At one extreme we could be dealing with a multi-national, trans-border project with aid or assistance from several major international financial institutions (IFI). We could be trying to help the country to move towards sustainable economic development.

Environmental project?

All hard and most soft projects have some environmental implications or impacts. It is usually helpful to distinguish between:

  • projects having environmental objectives, and
  • other projects where objectives are not environmental but which have environmental impacts, or secondary environmental benefits.

From environmental perspective four broad types of project can be identified:

  1. where an economic activity has a substantial environmental component or impact;
    Examples: electricity generation, building or construction, industrial manufacturing processes.
  2. where the objective is to improve the environment, or environmental conditions, and/or human health. These may sometimes be referred to as “green” projects;
    Examples: biodiversity conservation, protection of a valuable landscape, controlling air and water pollution.
  3. mixture of the above, where a proposed activities brings economic benefits and at the same time helps to improve the environment. These are often called “win-win” projects;
    Examples: chromium recovery in tanneries, installing cleaner and more efficient engines in the city bus fleet.
  4. research projects – which may eventually result in commercial applications having environmental consequences.
    Examples: research on renewable energy sources; research on transportation technologies.
Project scale and complexity

Projects can vary enormously in scale and complexity both technically and in terms of funding.

At one extreme we could be dealing with a multi-national, trans-border project with aid or assistance from multilateral funders and financing from several major international financial institutions (IFI). It could be trying to help one several countries in the region to move towards sustainable development.
Examples: a water management and improvement programme for an international river basin, involving several countries, and funded by the European Union, World Bank and bilateral resources. This could be regarded as one large project or a number of related, but separate, projects.

At another extreme, a project could be small, focused on only a small part of a country, and involve funds from a single agency only – perhaps from the organisation proposing the project.
Examples: raising the awareness of environmental issues of municipal government staff through training funded by bilateral assistance; carrying out a feasibility study funded by a grant.

This project is funded by the European Union

And implemented by a consortium led by