Environmental Impact Assessment
Every country strives to progress ahead. One aspect of progress is economic development through manufacturing and trading. Every country builds industries which provide employment, serve the consumers needs and help to generate revenue. The dominant pattern of development that humankind has followed in recent decades has brought about large scale changes in the earth systems. We are already feeling the impact of these changes upon our health, livelihoods and safety. On the other hand, the fruits of development are not equally distributed. Some countries and some communities have a high standard of living, while others are not able to meet their basic needs.
Development projects in the past were undertaken without any consideration about their environmental consequences. As a result rivers and lakes have been polluted, air pollution has reached threatening levels and pilling of domestic and industrial wastes has resulted in land degradation. Industrialization and economic growth provided material comforts but at the same time deteriorated the quality of life.
i. To identify, predict and evaluate the economic, environmental and social impact of development activities
ii. To provide information on the environmental consequences for decision making and
iii. To promote environmentally sound and sustainable development through the identification of appropriate alternatives and mitigation measures.
The eight steps of the EIA process:
i. Screening: First Stage of EIA, which determines whether the proposed project, requires an EIA and if it does, then the level of assessment required.
ii. Scoping: This stage identifies the key impacts that should be investigated. This stage also defines the time limit of the study.
iii. Impact analysis: This stage of EIA identifies and predicts the likely environmental and social impact of the proposed project and evaluates the significance.
iv. Mitigation: This step in EIA recommends the actions to reduce and avoid the potential adverse environmental consequences of development activities.
v. Reporting: This stage presents the result of EIA in a form of a report to the decision-making body and other interested parties.
vi. Review of EIA: It examines the adequacy and effectiveness of the EIA report and provides the information necessary for decision –making.
vii. Decision-making: It decides whether the project is rejected, approved or needs further change.
viii. Post monitoring: This stage comes into play once the project is commissioned. It checks to ensure that the impacts of the project do not exceed the legal standards and implementation of the mitigation measures are in the manner as described in the EIA report.
EIA was introduced in India in 1978, with respect to river valley projects. On 27 January 1994, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MEF), Government of India, under the Environmental (Protection) Act 1986, made Environmental Clearance (EC) mandatory for expansion or modernisation or for setting up new projects listed in Schedule 1 of the notification. Since then there have been 12 amendments made in the EIA notification of 1994. Both central and state authorities share the responsibility of EIA’s development and management. EIA is now mandatory for 30 categories of projects, and these projects get Environmental Clearance (EC) only after the EIA requirements are fulfilled.
The MoEF recently notified new EIA legislation in September 2006. The notification makes it mandatory for all projects to get environment clearance from the central government under the following categories:
3. Thermal power plants
4. River valley projects
5. Infrastructure and CRZ (Coastal Regulation Zone)
6. Nuclear power projects.
However, the new legislation has entrusted the decision of clearing projects on the state government depending on the size/ capacity of the project. EIA appraises the environmental health and social implications of planned developmental projects. It thus links environment with development. The goal of EIA is to ensure environmentally safe and sustainable development.