Importance of Environmental Impact Assessment in India


Mankind has assessed numerous skills, learning, and innovations to transform nature to his requirement. Sanity has prevailed on mankind to bequeath the future generation an environment they can also enjoy as we had. This is our commitment to progeny. This approach has led us to re-think study and assess the environmental impact on a project level and strategic level. In this blog, we will discuss the Environment Impact Assessment in detail;

What is Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)? 

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is the project of policies, plans, and programs, which are related to the proposed program associated with the organ of the state. The applicants may be individuals or companies. Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is governed by the administrative rules and procedures for public participation and documentation of decision making. It may be subject to judicial review.

Environmental Impact Assessment

As the subject is a matter of immense international responsibility, the international commune is a vital stakeholder in the impact assessment as well. The International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA) defines an environmental impact assessment as “the process of identifying, predicting, evaluating and mitigating the biophysical, social, and other relevant effects of development proposals before major decisions being taken and commitments made.”

What are the Stages involved in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)?

Here are some of the stages in the Environmental Assessment process include:

  • Screening
  • Scoping
  • alternatives,
  • preliminary assessment,
  • mitigation,
  • environmental impact statement,
  • monitoring and
  • reviewing

What are the Objectives of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)?

The main objectives of EIA are

  • To promote environmentally sound and sustainable development through the identification of appropriate alternatives and mitigation measures.
  • To provide information on the environmental impact of decision making and
  • To identify, predict and evaluate the economic,  ecological and social impact of development activities

First Environmental Legislation

The first comprehensive environmental legislation came into force on 1st January 1970 in the United States in the form of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). In India, on 27th January 1994, the Central Ministry of Environment and Forests issued Notification for making EIA statutory for 29 specific activities falling under sectors such as industries, mining, irrigation, power, and transport, etc. This Notification was amended on 4th May 1994; it includes the detailed procedure for obtaining environmental clearance, technical information. And documents required for getting ecological approval from the Ministry of Environment and Forests. Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) should have the following information’s/data:

  1. Description of the proposed action (construction, operation, and shut down phase) and selection of alternatives to the proposed action.
  2. Nature and magnitude of the environmental effects.
  3. Possibility of earthquakes and cyclones.
  4. Possible effects on surface and groundwater quality, air quality and soil.
  5. Effects on vegetation, and endangered species.
  6. Economic and demographic factors.
  7. Identification of relevant human concerns.
  8. Noise pollution.
  9. Efficient use of inputs.
  10. Recycling and reduction of waste.
  11. Risk analysis and disaster management.
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EIA Methodology

Whenever a new development project is started, which is likely to affect environmental quality, it is necessary to carry out EIA.

  1. The first step in the EIA method is to determine whether the project under consideration follows the jurisdiction of the relevant acts and regulations if it is likely to create significant environmental disruption.
  2. If so, an EIA is undertaken, and preparation for the environmental impact statement (EIS) is done.
  3. In many countries, EIS is publically revised and reviewed.
  4. Finally, a political decision is taken. The development project may be
  5. accepted or
  6. accepted with some changes or
  7. an alternative proposal is accepted or
  8. rejected.

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Process

In the EIA system, there is a sequence of activities logically implemented in a project, termed as the EIA process. Guiding Principles:

The entire process of EIA is governed by eight guiding principles which are-

  1. Participation- Appropriate and timely access to the process for all interested parties.
  2. Transparency- All assessment decisions and their basis should be open and accessible.
  3. Certainty- The process and timing of the assessment should be agreed upon by all participants in advance.
  4. Accountability- The decision-makers of all parties are responsible for their actions and decisions under the assessment process.
  5. Credibility- 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 society.
  7. Flexibility- The assessment process should be able to deal efficiently with any proposal and decision-making situation.
  8. Practicality- The information and outputs provided by the assessment process are readily usable in decision making and planning.

Participants in the EIA Process

  1. Proponent-Government or Private Agency which initiates the project
  2. Decision maker: Designated-individual or group
  3. Assessor-Agency was responsible for the preparation of EIS
  4. Reviewer-Individual/Agency/Board
  5. Expert advisers, Media and Public, Environmental organizations, etc.

EIA Process in Sequence of Application

Stakeholder’s Involvement:

Stakeholders’ involvement occurs in various stages of EIA to ensure quality, efficiency, and effectiveness.

Project Screening and Scoping:

  • Determine the necessity for the EIA requirement.
  • Describe various screening criteria.
  • Scoping determines the coverage or scope of EIA.

Project Design and Construction

  • Type of project under consideration.
  • Physical dimensions of the area being considered.
  • Whether the resources will be used optically?
  • Whether there is an irretrievable commitment of land?
  • Whether the project is a critical phase of a more significant development?
  • Whether there will be environmental severe disruptions during construction?
  • What are the long-term plans of the proponent?
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Project Operation:

  • What provisions have been made to check the safety equipment regularly?
  • How will the hazardous waste products be handled?
  • What are the contingency plans developed to cope up with the possible accidents?
  • What provisions have been made for training the employees for environmental protection?
  • What plans have been made for environmental monitoring?

Site Characteristics:

  • Whether the site is susceptible to floods, earthquakes, and other natural disasters?
  • Whether the terrain is creating problems in predicting groundwater characteristics and air pollution, etc.?
  • Whether the local environment is conducive to the success of the project?
  • How many people are likely to be displaced because of the project?
  • What are the main attributes (e.g., protein content, calorie content, weed or pest status, carnivorousness, the rarity of species, etc.) of the local fauna and flora?
  • Whether the project will interfere with the movements of the fish population and important migratory animals?(vii) Whether historic sites are likely to be endangered because of the project?

Possible Environmental Impacts:

  • What are the potential short-term and long-term environmental impacts from the projects during construction and after construction?
  • Who would be affected because of these impacts?

Mitigation Measures:

  • Design system to avoid, reduce, and minimize adverse effects
  • Enhance beneficial outcomes.

Monitoring and auditing measures:

Identify impacts that require monitoring and auditing.

Socio-Economic Factors:

  • Who are the expected gainers and losers by the projects?
  • Where are the expected trade-offs?
  • Will the project interfere (blend, increase, or decrease) with the existing inequalities between occupational, ethnic, and age groups?
  • Will it affect the patterns of local/regional/national culture?

Availability of Information and Resources:

  • Whether domestic and outside experts are available to consult the specific impacts of the project?
  • Whether the relevant guidelines, technical information and other publications are available to identify the possible implications of similar projects?
  • Whether applicable environmental standards, by-laws, etc. are considered?
  • Whether the sources of pertinent ecological data are identified and whether they are accessible?
  • Whether the views of the special groups and general public regarding the project have been considered?
  • Whether the competent technical workforce is available to handle the project?

EIA Report and Review

Complete information in the report, including non-technical summary, methodologies used, results, interpretation, and conclusions. The review assesses the adequacy of issues and facilitates the decision-making process.

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Decision Making

The project may be accepted, accepted with some changes, or rejected.

Importance of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)

EIA is potentially a useful component of sound environmental management. It is the Government policy that before getting any approval by the planning commission, any industrial project has to obtain EIA clearance from Ministry of Environment.

EIA is exercised in India and its evaluation using a SWOT analysis. In India Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has been formally introduced in 1994. It has a stable supporting legislative, administrative, and procedural set-up. Central and State authorities together are sharing the responsibility of its development and management. A Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, and Threat (SWOT) analysis has taken up in this article.

This article concludes with some suggestions to improve the EIA process in India. SWOT works on improper screening and scoping guidelines to ineffective monitoring and post-project evaluation. This analysis aims to increase public awareness, initiatives of environmental groups, and the business community. The public can forward-thinking to integrate ecological consideration into plans and policies. Poor governance, rapid economic reforms, and favours to small-scale units are some of the foreseen threats to the system.

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in India

The Governments of India and the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh (HP) recently adopted policy changes intended to expedite development approvals for power projects. This paper focuses on the 1997 amendments to the Environmental Protection Act that establish procedures for public hearings as a component of EIA.

Three hydro project public hearings in the Kullu District (HP) in 1998 show that public involvement and public hearing processes are in their nascent stages despite the rapid pace of development. Many constraints, such as inaccessibility of information, lack of familiarity with EIA, and lack of institutional capacity, hinder severe public involvement. Public concerns focused on safety issues (blasting), new road construction, and jobs, with little consideration of environmental impact.

Recently Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) by Budget

The Government has announced: Green mobility gets fresh e-charge. The Government is concerned about the continuous increase in the pollution level across cities due to emissions and wants greater and faster adoption of greener vehicles. The budget has also removed import duty on part for electric vehicles such as e-drive assembly, on-board charger, e-compressor and charging the gun.

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