Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) - An Overview
Environmental Impact Assessment is a process that involves studying and predicting the effect that a project would have on the environment. EIA is often used by management in decision making as it makes a comparison of various alternatives for a project.
Therefore, the management can choose the one that offers the most reasonable combination of economic and environmental costs and benefits. The process is used to avoid projects that can have a detrimental effect on the environment.
EIA considers the following things in detail:
- Examination of both positive and negative consequences related to a project.
- Identification of possible environmental effects and how the same may be mitigated.
- Optimum utilization of resources, cost and time saving.
- Promotion of community participation in projects.
- Laying the base for environmentally sound/friendly projects.
The Environmental Impact Assessment procedure studies the various functional areas of the environment, including air, water, biodiversity, ecology, socio-economic, etc.
The most vital aspect of the EIA process is that it takes views of the local individuals who are directly affected by the project. This makes the whole process more genuine with first-hand feedback of the affected persons.
The quality of the Environmental Impact Assessment Report can be improved by taking inputs of the experts accredited by the Quality Council of India.
What are the types of Environmental Impact Assessment?
The following are the types of Environmental Impact Assessment:
- Comprehensive EIA
- Rapid EIA
- Comprehensive EIA
This includes the valuation of data of all the four seasons of the year.
- Rapid EIA
This includes the valuation of data of only one season of the year.
What are the Stages involved in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)?
The stages of environmental impact assessment are as follows:
In this phase the entire process or project would be screened. Screening here would include the impact of the project on the environment.
Scoping would include the process in which the impact can be analysed. The process of analysing the impact of EIA would be considered under scoping.
This would include any form of alternatives which would cause lesser impact on the environment based on the methods utilised during screening and scoping.
- Preliminary Assessment
The preliminary assessment would include a primary assessment on the impact on the environment. The impact on the environment would be determined based on the project or construction activity carried out.
Mitigation is specific mitigating factors which reduce the impact on the environment. If there are positive effects on the environment, then such factors would be considered as mitigating factors.
- Environmental Impact Statements
Such statement would include the detailed report and analysis of the impact the specific project has on the environment.
Monitoring would include any form of activities which are carried out in monitoring the services related to the environment.
Reviewing includes reviewing the standards related to environmental impact after completion of the project.
Environmental Impact Assessment in India
In India, the Environmental Impact Assessment process is beneficial as the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has taken many commendable measures, which are discussed henceforth:
- Sector-specific Expert Appraisal Committees (EACs) have been constituted.
- State level Environment Impact Assessment Authorities and Committees have been constituted.
- Regular EAC meetings are held.
- The project reports, status and minutes of the meetings are displayed on the website of the Ministry.
- Administrative instructions for clarification and bringing uniformity in the implementation of EIA notification are issued from time to time.
- Framing of Environment Management Plan.
- Optimization of resource utilization.
- Waste reuse and recycling.
- Promotion of energy efficiency.
- Addressing social issues.
- Post Environmental Clearance Monitoring for ensuring that action has been taken by the project proponents as per the conditions mentioned in the letter of EC.
- The project specific and general conditions are stipulated in the Environmental Clearance (EC).
- The EC letters are uploaded in the website of the project proponent for reasons of transparency.
- The Ministry examines the monitoring reports that are received from the Regional Offices.
- The Central and State Pollution Control Boards indulge in the quantitative monitoring on Air and Water pollution.
- The project proponent has to upload the compliance status and also submit the six-monthly report.
The Environmental Impact Assessment process in India
The Environmental Impact Assessment procedure in India is quite elaborate. It includes a series of steps that have to be undertaken to form the EIA report. The following steps are involved in the EIA process:
This is the first step of project evaluation. This step aims to determine whether a project needs an Environmental Impact Assessment or not. This step removes the projects that do not require EIA.
This step keeps the small projects from the complex evaluation. However, this too needs comprehensive screening since it is not necessary that smaller projects would not harm the environment.
- Preliminary Assessment
In this step, the expert has to research on the data available for the projects and evaluate the impact that it shall have on the environment. The expert would be required to forecast the degree of impact that the project shall have.
Once the results of the preliminary assessment are established, the authorities would decide whether the project needs rapid EIA or comprehensive EIA. The EIA report is prepared by the expert, along with other team members, per the decision taken by the authorities.
Post preliminary assessment, the EIA expert team gets into elaborate discussions with the stakeholders, investors, developers, institutions, regulatory agencies, local people, etc. This way, they get the feedback of the related parties, and in case any concerns are raised by them, the same can be addressed.
In accordance with the feedback of the third parties, the expert team selects the critical impacts of the project to be included in the comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment report.
- Main EIA
The primary Environmental Impact Assessment process includes focusing on the key identified impacts and finding a solution for them. It consists of a series of questions that have been asked by the experts from different parties till the time they arrive at workable solutions.
Once a proper evaluation of critical impacts and their effect on the environment have been predicted, the assessment of procedures of mitigation is undertaken.
The mitigation steps can include a change in operating methods, project site, disposal methods, raw materials, waste treatment, engineering designs, social service, etc. In case any persons are found to be affected, they are offered compensation.
Upon identification of mitigation costs and measures, the EIA report is prepared. The project report consists of the following:
• Proposed development
• Impacts on the environment
• Major environmental issues involved
• Mitigation measures and options
• Gaps and uncertainties in the prepared information
• Summary of the EIA process for the general public
- Public Hearing
A public hearing is conducted by the State Pollution Control Board either at the site or somewhere in its proximity to ascertain the concerns of the affected local persons.
This also includes getting written responses from the concerned persons by making an announcement regarding the project on the website within 7 days of receiving the application.
A public hearing is not required for the following projects in India:
- Small scale industries located in notified industrial estates or under the jurisdiction of industrial development authorities
- Units that are located in the export processing zones and special economic zones
When the public hearing is complete, the project developer gets the No Objection Certificate from the State Pollution Control Board. The NOC, along with the application to the MoEF Secretary, would have to be made to get environmental clearance.
Is EIA Mandatory?
Environmental Impact Assessment has become mandatory for many industries in India. Undertaking EIA is not only an obligation but social responsibility of an entity to ensure that it is not inflicting detrimental harm on the environment around it.
The Environmental Impact Assessment is a very elaborate process that needs to be undertaken by the experts to make correct, genuine, and quality EIA reports.
Getting an EIA done for a project is no easy task and requires the assistance of professionals who are well-versed with all its aspects.
This way, it is ensured that there is no shortcoming in any document required for EIA and assures that accurate EIA reports shall be generated by complying with all the requirements.