Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA): Objectives, History, Process, EIA UPSC Notes

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

Environmental Impact Assessment is defined as analysing the positive and negative effects of a developmental project on the environment including the cultural, health, and socio-economic impacts. 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) helps in promoting sustainable development by ensuring the efficient use of natural resources. EIA has many benefits, such as the protection of the environment, perfect utilization of resources, and saving of time and cost of the project.

This article on Environmental Impact Assessment UPSC topic covers all the important aspects, such as the general process, EIA full form, aims, and objectives, history, etc. Candidates who are preparing for the upcoming UPSC and other competitive exams can also download the EIA notes PDF from the direct link provided below.

What is Environmental Impact Assessment?

UNEP defines Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as a tool which can be used for decision-making to pin down the environmental, economic, and social impacts of a project. The primary objective of EIA is to estimate environmental impacts in project planning at an early stage and identify ways to minimize adverse impacts, modify projects as per local environmental needs and show the predictions and options to decision-makers.

Environmental Impact Assessment PDF

By using Environmental Impact Assessment, 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.

EIA Full Form

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

EIA was initially practised by developed nations, but it was slowly introduced in developing nations, including India.

Objectives of EIA

The aims of EIA or the Environment Impact Assessment are as follows:

  • To predict environmental impacts early in project planning and design and find ways to minimize unfavourable impacts.
  • To mitigate adverse effects and identify other environmental effects, even after the mitigation is implemented.
  • To systematically examine both negative and positive impacts of the developmental project and try to address the issues during the project design stage.
  • Another major objective of Environmental Impact Assessment is to minimize conflicts by encouraging the participation of the community, notifying the decision-makers, and helping prepare the layout for environmentally sound projects.

Environmental Impact Assessment India

The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) experience of India began in 1976-77 by the Planning Commission. Till 1994, it was an administrative decision to get environmental clearance from the Union Government, which lacked legislative support. The Indian Government, by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, under the Environmental (Protection) Act 1986, announced 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) came up with the new EIA policy in September 2006 and again in 2020 – which is still in the draft stage. It is now compulsory for more than 30 classes of projects in India.

Major Stakeholders in Environmental Impact Assessment

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

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

General Process of EIA

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

  • Screening: The plan of the project is checked for its size, location, and type of development, also if there is a requirement for any legislative intervention.
  • Scoping: The project’s possible effects, impact zones, mitigating options, and monitoring requirements.
  • Collection of baseline data
  • Prediction of the impact: All kinds of impacts, whether temporary or permanent, have to be predicted as the assessment agency needs to understand any impact that the product will create.
  • The EIA report and the mitigation measures: The activities and steps for preventing, minimising, or passing the consequences should be included in the EIA report.
  • Public hearing: Public and environmental groups near the project site may be informed and consulted when the EIA report is completed.
  • Decision-making should be done along with consultation from EIA and EMP (Environment Management Plan).
  • Monitoring and implementation of the environmental management plan
  • Alternatives Evaluation, Mitigation Measures Delineation, and Environmental Impact Assessment Report: Alternatives must be established for each project, and environmental features should be examined. Following the evaluation of options, a mitigation strategy for the chosen option should be developed and reinforced by an Environmental Management Plan (EMP) to assist the proponent toward environmental improvements.

The Environmental Impact Assessment tries to create a link between development and sustainability. Also, it aims to minimise the adverse effects of different developmental activities on the environment.

EIA Notification 2006

The EIA Notification, 2006 put together a decentralized, efficient, and transparent mechanism to combine developmental processes with environmental concerns to promote sustainable development. The Environmental Impact Assessment also ensures the consolidation of significant environmental safeguards at the planning stage to ensure a lesser effect on different environmental components.

After the 2006 Amendment, the EIA cycle comprises only four stages: Screening, Scoping, Public hearing, and Appraisal. The salient features of the Environmental Impact Assessment notification, 2006 are:

  • Projects were categorized into 2 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 B1 projects (Mandatorily requires EIA).
    • Category B2 projects (Do not require EIA).
    • Category A- These projects require compulsory clearance and thus, they do not go through the screening process.
    • Category B- These projects undergo a screening process and complete the EIA process and are classified into two types, as discussed above.
  • The public consultation process is made more structured, comprising two components, i.e., comments through correspondence and a public hearing at the site. Provision for videography of the public hearing proceedings has also been made.
  • For considering an environmental clearance application, No-Objection Certificates from regulatory bodies, such as SPCB etc., are not mandatory.

EIA Notification 2020

Under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) published the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification 2020 to replace the 2006 notification.

The key proposals of the Environmental Impact Assessment notification, 2020 are:

  • It reduced the time for public hearings from 30 to 20 days.
  • The classification of projects, such as into A, B1, and B2, are exempted from public scrutiny.
  • Post-clearance compliance.
  • Earlier, in the 2006 notification, compliance reports were to be submitted every six months, but through this proposal, the submission was proposed to be made annually.
  • Report Prepared Solely by Project Proponents.
  • The EIA Notification 2020 excludes reporting of violations and non-compliance by the public.
  • Post-facto clearance: If a project has been operating without environmental clearance before the notification, it can be allowed to apply for clearance.
  • Firms will have to pay the penalty if they are found violating the terms of their establishment.

Components of EIA: Importance and Shortcomings

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

Importance of EIA

  • Link the environment with sustainable development.
  • Provides a cost-effective method to eliminate or minimize the negative impact of developmental projects.
  • To encourage the adaptation of mitigation strategies in the developmental plan.
  • To empower the policy-makers to analyze the impacts of developmental activities on the environment well before the implementation of the project.
  • To ensure that the development project is within the limits of regeneration of the ecosystem and it is environmentally sound.

Limitations of Environmental Impact Assessment

  • It is time-consuming.
  • Compliance monitoring after Environmental Impact Assessment 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.
  • The general process of EIA is applicable in various countries, still not able to address biodiversity adequately.

Environment Impact Assessment UPSC

The Environment Impact Assessment UPSC is covered under the Environment and Ecology part of the UPSC Syllabus. The topic is equally relevant for both UPSC Prelims and Mains exams. The EIA UPSC topic can be covered through the UPSC Books generally used during the exam preparation, along with the right inputs from this article.

Other Important UPSC Notes
Indian History UPSC Notes Indian Economy Notes for UPSC
Charter Act 1813 Charter Act 1853
Biosphere Reserves in India Morley minto Reforms
Revolt of 1857 Structure of Atmosphere
Regulating Act of 1773 Ryotwari System
Charter Act 1833 Mahalwari System
Our Apps Playstore
SSC and Bank
Other Exams
GradeStack Learning Pvt. Ltd.Windsor IT Park, Tower - A, 2nd Floor, Sector 125, Noida, Uttar Pradesh 201303
Home Practice Test Series Premium