Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
- Participatory tool for ensuring optimal use of natural resources for sustainable development.
- Use to predict the environmental consequences (positive or negative) of a plan, policy, program, or project prior to the decision to move forward with the proposed action.
- Started with the impact assessment of river valley projects in 1978-79.
- Later enhanced to cover other developmental sectors such as industries, thermal power projects, mining schemes etc.
- EIA has now been made mandatory under the Environmental Protection Act, 1986 for 29 categories of developmental activities involving investments of Rs. 50 crores and above.
Three important aspects of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) are
- Risk assessment,
- Environmental management and
- Post product monitoring.
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. Reduced environmental damage;
- 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 and ensure environmentally safe and sustainable development.
- More informed decision making & environmentally sensitive decisions;
- Increased accountability and transparency during the development process;
- Improved integration of projects into their environmental and social setting;
- More effective projects in terms of meeting their financial and/or socio-economic objectives; and
- A positive contribution towards achieving sustainability
Small scale projects not included in most environmental impact assessment systems although their cumulative impacts may be significant over time.
Problems in Environmental Impact Assessment
- Difficulties in ensuring adequate and useful public involvement (or participation);
- Insufficient integration of EIA work at key decision points in relation to feasibility and similar studies in the project life-cycle; with some major decisions being made even before EIAs are completed;
- Lack of consistency in selection of developments requiring specific environmental impact assessment studies;
- Inadequate understanding of the relative roles of baseline description and impact prediction;
- Poor integration of biophysical environmental impacts with social, economic and health effects also adds to the Problems in Environmental Impact Assessment;
- Production of EIA reports which are not easily understood by decision makers and the public because of their length and technical complexity;
- Lack of mechanisms to ensure that EIA reports are considered in decision-making;
- Weak linkages between environmental impact assessment report recommendations on mitigation and monitoring and project implementation and operation; and
- Limited technical and managerial capacities in many countries to implement EIAs result in Problems in carrying out Environmental Impact Assessment