Environmental impact assessment (EIA) is the formal process used to predict policy, programme or project prior to the decision to move forward with the proposed action. It is an important management tool for ensuring optimal use of natural resources for sustainable development. EIA is just an information gathering exercise carried out by the developer and other bodies which enables a Local Planning Authority to understand the environmental effects of a development before deciding whether it should go ahead or not.
It is meant to be a systematic process which leads to a final product, the Environmental Statement (ES). The ES has to address the direct and indirect effects of the development on a number of factors including the population, fauna, flora, soil, air, water, climatic factors, landscape and archaeology. The ES must also contain a non-technical summary so that involved persons can understand what is being proposed and its likely effects.
EIA has been addressed some of the basic factors listed below:
(i) Meteorology and air quality
(ii) Hydrology and water quality
(iii) Site and its surroundings
(iv) Occupational safety and health
(v) Transportation of raw material and details of material handling
(vi) Control equipment and measure proposed to be adopted
- Objective of EIA is to ensure that development is sustained with minimal environmental degradation.
- The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has been assigned the responsibility for arraying out environmental impact assessment in India.
- The developmental projects are required to prepare an environmental impact statement covering the following:
(i) Effect on land including land degradation and subsidence
(ii) Deforestation and compensatory afforestation
(iii) Air and water pollution including ground water pollution
(iv) Noise pollution and vibrations
(v) Flora and fauna, and loss of biological diversity
(vi) Socio-economic impact including human displacement, cultural loss and health aspects.
(vii) Risk analysis and disaster management
(viii) Recycling and the reduction of waste
(ix) Efficient use of inputs
- The coverage of the project generally includes:
(a) Those requiring clearance from the public investment boards
(b) Projects referred by state government or administrative ministers
(c) Projects in sensitive areas
(d) Projects on which there are public complaints
- The environment impact assessment of development projects has so far been done on the basis of ‘Executive Order’ issuing the provision of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1956 to ensure implementation of the suggested safeguards.
2. EIA RULES & REGULATIONS
The ElA regulations define two schedules of developments:
- For Schedule-1 projects, an ElA must always be carried out.
- For Schedule-2 projects, an EIA must be carried out if the development is likely to have a significant impact on the environment by virtue of its nature, size or location.
Examples of Schedule-1 projects include:
Major power plants, Chemical works, Waste disposal plants and Major road schemes etc.
Examples of Schedule-2 projects include:
Some intensive live-stock rearing, Overhead transmission lines, Surface storage of fossil fuel, Foundries and forges, Coke ovens, Manufacture of dairy products, Some textile operations, Rubber production, Wastewater treatment plants, Holiday villages and Golf courses etc.
3. ROLES OF PARTIES INVOLVED IN EIA
EIA involves many parties, grouped by their role definition within the process. The following section outlines the basic roles of various bodies:
(i) The Project Proponent
(ii) The Environmental Consultants
(iii) The State Pollution Control Board / Pollution Control Committees (PCCs)
(iv) The Public
(v) The Impact Assessment Agency (IAA)
3.1. The Role of the Project Proponent
The project proponent during the project planning stage decides the type of projects i.e. new establishment, expansion or modernization. Later, the project proponent needs to prepare the Detailed Project Report/Feasibility Report and submits the Executive Summary which shall incorporate the project details and findings of EIA study that is to be made available to public. The proponent has to approach the concerned State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) for No Objection Certificate (NOC) and holding the public hearing. After the public hearing the proponent submits application to Impact Assessment Agency (IAA) for environmental clearance.
3.2. The Role of Environment Consultant
The consultant should also be fully equipped with required instruments and infrastructure for conducting EIA studies. The environmental consultant is responsible for supplying all the environment-related information required by the SPCB and IAA through the proponent. The consultant is also required to justify the findings in the EIA and Environmental Management Plan (EMP) during the meeting with the expert groups at IAA.
3.3. The Role of the State Pollution Control Board (PCB)/Pollution Control Committee (PCC)
The State PCBs/PCCs are responsible for assessing the compatibility of a proposed development with current operational and prescribed standards. If the development is in compliance, the PCB will then issue its NOC. They shall also hold the public hearing as per the provisions of EIA notification. The details of public hearing shall be forwarded to IAA.
3.4. The Role of the Public
The public also has an important role to play in EIA. The concerned persons will be invited through press advertisement to review information and provide their views on the proposed development requiring environmental clearance.
3.5. The Role of the Impact Assessment Agency (IAA)
Whether a proponent is required to obtain environmental clearance, the IAA will evaluate and assess the EIA report. In this process the project proponent will be given a chance to present his proposal If a project is accepted the IAA will also prepare a set of recommendations and conditions for its implementation based on this assessment. During the implementation and operation of the project, the IAA will also be responsible for the environmental monitoring process.
4. STAGES IN ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT PROCESS
EIA represents a systematic process that examines the environmental consequences of the development actions in advance. The emphasis of a EIA is on prevention and therefore It is more proactive than reactive in nature.
The EIA process involves a number of steps, some of which are listed below:
- Project screening: This entails the application of EIA to those projects that may have significant environmental impacts.
- Scoping: This step seeks to identify at an early stage of the key significant environmental Issues among a host of possible impacts of a project and all the available alternatives,
- Consideration of alternatives: This seeks to ensure that the proponent has considered other feasible approaches including alternative project locations, scales, processes, layouts and operating condition,
- Description of the project development action: This step seeks to clarify the purpose and rationale of the project and understand its various characteristics Including the stages of development, location and processes.
- Description of the environmental baseline: This Includes the establishment of both the present and future state of the environment in the absence of the project by taking into account the changes resulting from natural events and from other human activities.
- Identification of key impacts: This brings together the previous steps with a view to ensure that all potentially significant environmental impacts (adverse and beneficial) are Identified and taken into account in the process.
- The prediction of impacts: This step aims to Identify the likely magnitude of the change (i.e„ Impact) in the environment when the project is implemented In comparison with the situation when the project is not carried out.
- Evaluation and assessment of significance: This seeks to assess |ho relative significance of (lie predicted impacts to allow a focus on key adverse impacts. Formal definition of significance Is the product of consequence and likelihood.
i.e. Significance = Consequence × Likelihood
- Identifications of mitigating measures: This involves the Introduction of measures to avoid, reduce, remedy or compensate for any significant adverse impacts,
- Public consultation and participation: This alms Io assure the quality, comprehensiveness and effectiveness of the El A, as well as to ensure that the views of public are adequately taken into consideration In the decision-making process.
- EIS presentation: This is a vital step in the process. If done badly, much good work in the EIA may be negated.
- Review of EIS: This involves a systematic appraisal of the quality of the EIS as a contribution to the decision-making process.
- Decision-making: At this stage, decisions are made by the relevant authority of the EIS (including consultation responses) together with other material considerations as, whether to accept, defer or reject the project.
Stages in EIA process
- Post-decision monitoring: This involves examining the outcomes associated with development impacts, after the decision to proceed with the project. It can contribute to effective project management.
- Auditing and predictions of mitigating measures: This follows monitoring and involves comparing actual outcomes with predicted outcomes. It provides a vital step in the EIA learning process.
The above figure shows that, it is a cyclical process involving feedback and interaction among the various steps and the sequence of the steps may also vary.
5. ENVIRONMENTAL APPRAISAL COMMITTEE (EAC)
To draw out multi-disciplinary inputs for appraisal of projects, Union Government has constituted the EAC to ensure multi-disciplinary input required for environmental appraisal of development projects:
- Mining Projects
- Industrial Projects
- Thermal Power Projects
- Nuclear Power Projects
The project authorities must furnish the following documents for environmental appraisal of a developmental projects:
(i) Detailed Project Report (DPR)
(ii) Filled in questionnaire, and
(iii) Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)
6. ADVANTAGES OF EIA
Reduced cost and lime of project Implementation.
Cost-saving modifications in project design.
Increased project acceptance.
Avoided impacts and violations of laws and regulations.
Improved project performance.
Avoided treatment/clean-up costs.
7. LIMITATIONS OF EIA
EIA process provides advice to the decision-makers; it does not provide a final decision.
The predicted adverse effects on the environment might lead to strict conditions being imposed to avoid these effects or remedy for any adverse effects, or perhaps lead to the complete abandonment of a proposal.
EIA requires the scientific (technical) and various issues to be dealt with in a single assessment process which is bulky.
The implementation of the environmental policy focused on the EIA, and this led to overburdening process.
Public consultation and public participation are limited.
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