Read this article to learn about Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA):- 1. Definitions of EIA 2. Objective of EIA 3. Methodology 4. Process 5. Importance.
Definitions of EIA:
Environmental Impact Assessment is defined as an activity designed to identify the impact on the biogeophysical environment, on man and well-being of legislative proposals, projects, policies, operational procedures and to interpret and communicate information.
EIA is a systematic process of identifying future consequences of a current or proposed action.
Objective of EIA:
The objective of EIA is (i) to identify, predict and evaluate the economic, environmental and social impact of development activities (ii) to provide information on the environmental consequences for decision making and (iii) to promote environmentally sound and sustainable development through the identification of appropriate alternatives and mitigation measures.
EIA is widely accepted as a tool to ensure sustained development with minimum environmental degradation.
First Environmental Legislation:
The first comprehensive environmental legislation (Section 102) in United States came into force on 1st January 1970 in the form of National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). In India, the Central Ministry of Environment and Forests issued a Notification on 27th January, 1994 making EIA statutory for 29 specified activities falling under sectors such as industries, mining, irrigation, power and transport etc.
This Notification was amended on 4th May, 1994 and the amended version includes a self-explanatory note detailing the procedure for obtaining environmental clearance, technical information, documents required to be submitted for getting environmental clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) should contain the following information’s/data:
1. Description of proposed action (construction, operation and shut down phase) and selection of alternatives to the proposed action.
2. Nature and magnitude of the likely environmental effects.
3. Possibility of earthquakes and cyclones.
4. Possible effects on surface and ground water quality, soil and air quality.
5. Effects on vegetation, wild life and endangered species.
6. Economic and demographic factors.
7. Identification of relevant human concerns.
8. Noise pollution. Efficient use of inputs.
9. Recycling and reduction of waste.
10. Risk analysis and disaster management.
Whenever a new development project is planned which is likely to affect environmental quality, it is necessary to carry out EIA.
1. The first step in EIA method is to determine whether the project under consideration follows the jurisdiction of the relevant acts and regulations and if so, whether it is likely to create a significant environmental disruption.
2. If so, an EIA is undertaken and the environmental impact statement (EIS) is prepared.
3. In many countries, EIS is open to public scrutiny and is reviewed at public hearings.
4. Finally, a political decision is taken. The development project may be (i) accepted or (ii) accepted with amendments or (iii) an alternative proposal is accepted or (iv) rejected.
Environment Impact Assessment Process:
In EIA system, there are sequence of activities implemented in a project in logical manner termed as EIA process.
The entire process of EIA is governed by eight guiding principles.
An appropriate and timely access to the process for all interested parties.
All assessment decisions and their basis should be open and accessible.
The process and timing of the assessment should be agreed by all participants in advance.
The decision makers of all parties are responsible for their action and decisions under the assessment process.
Assessment is undertaken with professionalism and objectivity.
6. Cost effectiveness:
The assessment process and its outcomes will ensure environmental protection at the least cost to the society.
The assessment process should be able to deal efficiently with any proposal and decision making situation.
The information and outputs provided by the assessment process are readily usable in decision making and planning.
Participants in EIA Process:
Government or Private Agency which initiates the project.
2. Decision maker:
Designated individual or group.
Agency responsible for the preparation of EIS.
5. Expert advisers, Media and Public, Environmental organisations etc.
EIA Process in Sequence of Application:
1. Stakeholder’s Involvement:
Stakeholders’ involvement occurs in various stages of EIA to ensure quality, efficiency and effectiveness.
2. Project Screening and Scoping:
(i) Determine necessity for EIA requirement.
(ii) Describe various screening criteria.
(iii) Scoping determines coverage or scope of EIA.
3. Project Design and Construction:
(i) Type of project under consideration.
(ii) Physical dimensions of the area being considered.
(iii) Whether the resources will be used optically?
(iv) Whether there is an irretrievable commitment of land?
(v) Whether the project is a critical phase of a larger development?
(vi) Whether there will be serious environmental disruptions during construction?
(vii) What are the long-term plans of the proponent?
4. Project Operation:
(i) What provisions have been made to check the safety equipment regularly?
(ii) How will the hazardous waste products be handled?
(iii) What are the contingency plans developed to cope up with the possible accidents?
(iv) What provisions have been made for training the employees for environmental protection?
(v) What plans have been made for environmental monitoring?
5. Site Characteristics:
(i) Whether the site is susceptible to floods, earth quakes and other natural disasters?
(ii) Whether the terrain is creating problems in predicting ground water characteristics and air pollution etc.?
(iii) Whether the local environment is conductive for the success of the project?
(iv) How many people are likely to be displaced because of the project?
(v) What are the main attributes (e.g., protein content, calorie content, weed or pest status, carnivorousness, rarity of species, etc.) of the local fauna and flora?
(vi) Whether the project will interfere with the movements of fish population and important migratory animals?
(vii) Whether historic sites are likely to be endangered because of the project?
6. Possible Environmental Impacts:
(i) What are the possible short-term and long-term environmental impacts from the projects during construction and after construction?
(ii) Who would be effected because of these impacts?
7. Mitigation Measures:
(i) Design system to avoid, reduce and minimize adverse impacts.
(ii) Enhance beneficial outcomes.
8. Monitoring and auditing measures:
(i) Identify impacts that require monitoring and auditing.
9. Socio-Economic Factors:
(i) Who are the expected gainers and losers by the projects?
(ii) Where are the expected trade-offs?
(iii) Will the project interfere (blend, increase or reduce) with the existing inequalities between occupational, ethnic and age groups?
(iv) Will it effect the patterns of local/regional/national culture?
10. Availability of Information and Resources:
(i) Whether local and outside experts are available to consult specific impacts of the project?
(ii) Whether the relevant guidelines, technical information and other publications are available to identify the possible impacts of similar projects?
(iii) Whether relevant environmental standards, by-laws etc. are considered?
(iv) Whether the sources of relevant environmental data are identified and whether they are accessible?
(v) Whether the views of the specialist groups and general public regarding the project have been considered?
(vi) Whether the competent technical manpower is available to handle the project?
11. EIA Report and Review:
Complete information in report including non-technical summary, methodologies used, results, interpretation and conclusions. Review assesses adequacy of issues and facilitate decision making process.
12. Decision Making:
The project may be accepted, accepted with alterations or rejected.
Importance of EIA:
1. EIA is potentially a useful component of good environmental management.
2. It is the Government policy that any industrial project has to obtain EIA clearance from the Ministry of Environment before approval by the planning commission.