Environmental Impact Assessment
Developmental projects in the past were undertaken without any consideration to their environmental consequences. As a result the whole environment got polluted and degraded.
In view of the colossal damage done to the environment, governments and public are now concerned about the environmental impacts of developmental activities. So, to assess the environmental impacts, the mechanism of Environmental Impact Assessment also known as EIA was introduced.
EIA is a tool to anticipate the likely environmental impacts that may arise out of the proposed developmental activities and suggest measures and strategies to reduce them.
EIA was introduced in India in 1978, with respect to river valley projects. Later the EIA legislation was enhanced to include other developmental sections since 1941.
EIA comes under Notification on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of developmental projects 1994 under the provisions of Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
Besides EIA, the Government of India under Environment (Protection) Act 1986 issued a number of other notifications, which are related to environmental impact assessment.
EIA is now mandatory for 30 categories of projects, and these projects get Environmental Clearance (EC) only after the EIA requirements are fulfilled.
Environmental clearance or the ‘go ahead’ signal is granted by the Impact Assessment Agency in the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India.
Projects that require clearance from central government can be broadly categorized into the following sectors
- Thermal power plants
- River valley projects
- Coastal Regulation Zone and
- Nuclear power projects
The important aspects of EIA are : risk assessment, environmental management and Post product monitoring.
Functions of EIA is to
- Serve as a primary environmental tool with clear provisions.
- Apply consistently to all proposals with potential environmental impacts.
- Use scientific practice and suggest strategies for mitigation.
- Address all possible factors such as short term, long term, small scale and large scale effects.
- Consider sustainable aspects such as capacity for assimilation, carrying capacity, biodiversity protection etc…
- Lay down a flexible approach for public involvement
- Have a built-in mechanism of follow up and feedback.
- Include mechanisms for monitoring, auditing and evaluation.
In order to carry out an environmental impact assessment, the following are essential:
- Assessment of existing environmental status.
- Assessment of various factors of ecosystem (air, water, land, biological).
- Analysis of adverse environmental impacts of the proposed project to be started.
- Impact on people in the neighborhood.
Benefits of EIA
- EIA provides a cost effective method to eliminate or minimize the adverse impact of developmental projects.
- EIA enables the decision makers to analyses the effect of developmental activities on the environment well before the developmental project is implemented.
- EIA encourages the adaptation of mitigation strategies in the developmental plan.
- EIA makes sure that the developmental plan is environmentally sound and within limits of the capacity of assimilation and regeneration of the ecosystem.
- EIA links environment with development. The goal is to ensure environmentally safe and sustainable development.
Environmental Components of EIA:
The EIA process looks into the following components of the environment:
- Quality of ambient air present and predicted.
- Meteorological data which predicts Wind speed, direction, humidity etc.
- Quantity of emission of harmful gases into the atmosphere from project and its impact on the surroundings.
- Pollution control desires/air quality standards.
- Levels of noise present and predicted
- Strategies for reducing noise pollution.
- Existing ground and surface water resources, their quality and quantity within the zone.
- Impact of proposed project on water resources.
- Impact of project on natural Flora and fauna
- Potential damage done due to project, effluents, emissions and landscaping.
- Biological stress of the project on the ecosystem and environment.
- to assess the adverse impact of the project by doing a Study of soil characteristics, land use, drainage pattern, historical monuments and heritage site.
- Assessment of expected economic benefits arising out of the project have to be compared to the all the above mentioned factors. Thus we can say that environmental concerns have to be made a part of the decision to set up a project.
EIA Process and Procedures
Steps in Preparation of EIA report
- Collection of baseline data from primary and secondary sources;
- Prediction of impacts based on past experience and mathematical modelling;
- Evolution of impacts versus evaluation of net cost benefit;
- Preparation of environmental management plansto reduce the impacts to the minimum;
- Quantitative estimation of financial cost of monitoring plan and the mitigation measures.
Environment Management Plan
- Delineation of mitigation measures including prevention and control for each environmental component, rehabilitation and resettlement plan.
EIA process is cyclical with interaction between the various steps.
- Screening:The project plan is screened for scale of investment, location and type of development and if the project needs statutory clearance.
- Scoping:The project’s potential impacts, zone of impacts, mitigation possibilities and need for monitoring.
- Collection of baseline data:Baseline data is the environmental status of study area.
- Impact prediction:Positive and negative, reversible and irreversible and temporary and permanent impacts need to be predicted which presupposes a good understanding of the project by the assessment agency.
- Mitigation measures and EIA report:The EIA report should include the actions and steps for preventing, minimizing or by passing the impacts or else the level of compensation for probable environmental damage or loss.
- Public hearing:On completion of the EIA report, public and environmental groups living close to project site may be informed and consulted.
- Decision making:Impact Assessment (IA) Authority along with the experts consult the project-in-charge along with consultant to take the final decision, keeping mind EIA and EMP (Environment Management Plan).
- Monitoring and implementation of environmental management plan meansThe various phases of implementation of the project are monitored.
Assessment of Alternatives, Delineation of Mitigation Measures and Environmental Impact Assessment Report:
For every project, possible alternatives should be identified and environmental attributes compared. Alternatives should cover both project location and process technologies.
Once alternatives have been reviewed, a mitigation plan should be drawn up for the selected option and is supplemented with an Environmental Management Plan (EMP)
Inventory analysis and hazard probability and index also form part of EIA procedures.