Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA): Aims, Stakeholders, Process, Components

By K Balaji|Updated : June 9th, 2022

EIA- Environmental Impact Assessment is a process of evaluating the likely environmental impacts of a proposed project or development, taking into account inter-related socio-economic, cultural, and human-health impacts, both beneficial and adverse. In simple terms, the meaning of EIA is that it is a process through which an environmental impact of a proposed development is evaluated. Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is an important management tool for ensuring optimal use of natural resources for sustainable development.

By considering the environmental effects of the project and their mitigation early in the project planning cycle, EIA has many benefits, such as protection of the environment, optimum utilization of resources, and saving of time and cost of the project.

The article on EIA covers all the important aspects, such as the aim of environmental impact assessment, the background of EIA, EIA in India, EIA notification, 2006, advantages & disadvantages of EIA, and the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2020. Cover all the topics for the upcoming IAS Exam.

Table of Content

EIA Full Form

EIA stands for Environmental Impact Assessment. EIA is termed as one of the best policy innovations of the 1900s. The birth of EIA is dated back to 1969 when the USA brought its first National Environment Policy Act (NEPA) in 1969. Columbia and the Philippines are the earliest examples of developing nations that introduced EIA in their policies. Columbia brought it in 1974 while the Philippines in 1978. In 1989, EIA was adopted as the major development project by the World Bank.

EIA was initially practiced by developed nations but slowly it was also introduced in developing nations including India.

What is EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment)?

UNEP defines Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as a tool used to identify the environmental, social, and economic impacts of a project prior to decision-making. It aims to predict environmental impacts at an early stage in project planning and design, find ways and means to reduce adverse impacts, shape projects to suit the local environment and present the predictions and options to decision-makers.

By using EIA both environmental and economic benefits can be achieved, such as reduced cost and time of project implementation and design, avoided treatment/clean-up costs, and impacts of laws and regulations. The role of the EIA process was formally recognized at the Earth Summit at Rio Conference in 1992.

Environment Impact Assessment in India is statutorily backed by the Environment Protection Act, 1986 which contains various provisions on EIA methodology and process.

Aims of EIA

The aims of EIA or the Environment Impact Assessment are:

  • To predict environmental impacts at an early stage in project planning and design, and find ways and means to reduce adverse impacts.
  • To identify possible environmental effects of the proposed project proposes measures to mitigate adverse effects and predict whether there will be significant adverse environmental effects, even after the mitigation is implemented.
  • To systematically examines both beneficial and adverse consequences of the project and ensure that both these effects are taken into consideration during project design.
  • To consider the environmental effects of the project and their mitigation early in the project planning cycles such as protection of the environment, optimum utilization of resources, and saving of time and cost of the project.
  • To lessen conflicts by promoting community participation, informing decision-makers, and helping lay the base for environmentally sound projects.

EIA Applicability in India

The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) experience of India began in 1976-77, by the Planning Commission. Till 1994, environmental clearance from the Central Government was an administrative decision and lacked legislative support. The Indian Government, by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, under the Environmental (Protection) Act 1986, promulgated the Environmental Protection Rules, 1986. The Environmental Impact Assessment Authority (EIAA) is also constituted under the Environment Protection Act, 1986. The Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change (MoEFCC) notified new EIA legislation in September 2006, and again later in 2020- which is still in the draft stage.

EIA is now mandatory for over 30 classes of projects in India.

Major Stakeholders in EIA India

The key stakeholders or players in EIA with respect to India are:

  • Pollution Control Board (State or National)
  • Impact Assessment Agency
  • The regional center of the MoEFCC
  • Individual/Organization that proposes the project
  • An environmental consultant who prepares EIA on behalf of the project proponent.
  • Public, who has the right to voice their opinion.

EIA Process in India

The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Process is cyclical with the interaction between the various steps, which include:

  • Screening for scale investment, location, and type of development or if the project needs statutory clearance.
  • Scoping for the project’s potential impacts, zone of impacts, mitigation possibilities, and need for monitoring.
  • Collection of baseline data
  • Impact prediction, whether positive and negative, reversible and irreversible and temporary and permanent impacts
  • Mitigation measures and EIA report
  • Public hearing, on completion of the EIA report, public and environmental groups living close to the project site may be informed and consulted.
  • Decision-making should be done along with consultation from EIA and EMP (Environment Management Plan).
  • Monitoring and implementation of the environmental management plan
  • For every project, possible alternatives should be identified, and environmental attributes compared.
  • Risk assessment.

EIA Notification 2006

The EIA Notification, 2006 formulates a transparent, decentralized, and efficient regulatory mechanism to integrate environmental concerns into the developmental process with a view to facilitating sustainable development. It also ensures the incorporation of necessary environmental safeguards at the planning stage in the project cycle, so as to ensure minimal impact on different components of the environment.

After the 2006 Amendment, the EIA cycle comprises four stages only, namely Screening, Scoping, Public hearing, and Appraisal.

The salient features of the EIA Notification, 2006 are:

  • EIA Notification, 2006 has categorized the projects into two categories namely; Category ‘A’ and Category ‘B’ based on their impact potential͘.
  • Category A projects and Category B, projects undergo the complete EIA process whereas Category B2 projects are excluded from the complete EIA process.
    • Category A- These projects require mandatory environmental clearance and thus they do not undergo the screening process. They undergo the complete EIA process.
    • Category B- These projects undergo a screening process and complete EIA process and are classified into two types:
      • Category B1 projects (Mandatorily requires EIA).
      • Category B2 projects (Do not require EIA).
  • The public consultation process is made more structured, comprising of two components i.e., comments through correspondence and a public hearing at the site. Provision for videography of the proceedings of the public hearing has also been made.
  • NOCs ( No-Objection Certificates) from other regulatory agencies such as SPCB etc. is not a prerequisite for considering an application for environmental clearance.

EIA Notification 2020

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has published the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification 2020, with the intention of replacing the existing EIA Notification, 2006 under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.

The key proposals of the Draft EIA Notification, 2020 are:

  • Reduced Time for Public Hearings.
  • The classification of projects, such as into A, B1, and B2, and a host of projects are exempted from public scrutiny.
  • Post-clearance compliance.
  • The new draft EIA, proposes the submission of compliance reports annually whereas as per the 2006 notification, the compliance report was to be submitted every six months.
  • Report Prepared Solely by Project Proponents.
  • The EIA Notification 2020 excludes reporting of violations and non-compliance by the public.
  • Another major proposal in the draft 2020 is granting ‘post-facto clearance’ where a project that has been operating without environmental clearance, can be regularised or allowed to apply for clearance.
  • Firms found violating the terms of their establishment, if they have to get the clearance, however, will have to pay a penalty.

Components of EIA: Importance and Shortcomings

The aim and intention of environmental legislation throughout the world and in India are to promote and uphold the balance between development and preservation of the environment. So, it becomes increasingly important to realize the importance of environmental impact assessment towards achieving the goal of achieving the goal sustainable development.

Importance of EIA

  • Link the environment with development for environmentally safe and sustainable development.
  • Provides a cost-effective method to eliminate or minimize the adverse impact of developmental projects.
  • To encourage the adaptation of mitigation strategies in the developmental plan.
  • To enable the decision-makers to analyze the effect of developmental activities on the environment well before the developmental project is implemented.
  • To make sure that the developmental plan is environmentally sound and within the limits of the capacity of assimilation and regeneration of the ecosystem.

Shortcomings of EIA

  • It is time-consuming.
  • Compliance monitoring after EIA is seldom carried out, with too much focus on scientific analysis.
  • Public comments are not considered at an early stage, which often leads to conflict at a later stage of project clearance.
  • Details regarding the effectiveness and implementation of mitigation measures are often not provided.
  • Impact assessment processes are in place and applied in many countries, yet biodiversity is often inadequately addressed.

EIA- Environmental Impact Assessment UPSC

The EIA is covered under the Environment and Ecology part of the UPSC Syllabus. The topic is equally relevant for both, UPSC Prelims and UPSC Mains. The EIA topic can be covered through the UPSC Books generally used during the UPSC Preparation, along with the right inputs from Current Affairs.

One can practice UPSC Previous Year Questions to get a better understanding of the aspects asked in the UPSC Exam.

Environmental Impact Assessment PDF Notes UPSC

To have a full-fledged UPSC Preparation Strategy, it is very essential that a candidate need is updated with all the recent findings on the topic. The EIA is an important topic for both General studies Paper-1 and GS- Paper 3. Go through all the important aspects of the EIA to prepare yourself for the upcoming UPSC Exam.

Download Environmental Impact Assessment Notes PDF

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FAQs on Environmental Impact Assessment

  • EIA or Environmental Impact Assessment is an environmental decision support tool, which provides information on the likely impacts of development projects to those who make the decision as to whether the project should be authorized.

  • The EIA Notification, 2020 will replace the EIA Notification, 2006 for all future projects. But the Draft EIA Notification dilutes the effectiveness of the process and shrinks its scope. The most devastating blow to the EIA regime is the creation of an ex-post-facto clearance route.

  • The main aim of EIA is to conserve the environment and bring out the best combination of economic and environmental costs and benefits.

  • There are five types of EIA, namely- strategic EIA, regional EIA, sectoral EIA, project-level EIA, and life cycle assessment.

  • No, the Draft EIA Notification has not been implemented yet. Once implemented, it will replace the EIA Notification, 2006.

  • The three core values of EIA are:

    • Integrity: it ensures that the project is in agreement with standards and good principles.
    • Utility: a balanced approach and credible information for the decision-making process.
    • Sustainability: an environmentally sound development with a regenerative capacity of the resources
  • To download the Environmental Impact Assessment PDF Notes for UPSC, click here. It is suggested that one should first go through the article here and then download the PDF.

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