The following points highlight the ten main stages of environmental impact assessment. The stages are: 1. Identification 2. Screening 3. Scoping and Consideration of Alternatives 4. Impact Prediction 5. Mitigation 6. Reporting To Decision-Making Body 7. Public Hearing 8. Review (EIA Report) 9. Decision-Making 10. Post Project Monitoring & Environment Clearance Condition.
Stage # 1. Identification:
The first step is to define a project and study all the likely activities involved in its process so as to understand the range and reach of the project. This helps in deciding the possible zones of environmental impacts.
Stage # 2. Screening:
Screening is done to see whether a project requires environmental clearance as per the statutory notifications.
Screening criteria are based upon:
(i) Scales of investment
(ii) Types of development
(iii) Location of development
A project will have several ramifications biophysical or environmental, economic and social. Hence, it requires some degree of public participation. The law for EIA varies from country to country. If screening shows that a project necessitates EIA, it moves to the next stage.
Some projects may not require EIA. It is generally determined by the size of the project and is sometimes based on the site-specific information.
The output of the screening process is a document known as “Initial Environmental Examination or Evaluation (IEE)”, based on which the decision is taken whether an EIA is needed and if so, to what extent.
Stage # 3. Scoping and Consideration of Alternatives:
Scoping is the procedure of identifying the key environmental issues and is possibly the most important step in an EIA. Scoping means the scope or range of the EIA report.
It undertakes the project’s effect on the air, water, soil, noise level, air quality and physical impact.
It identifies issues and concerns, decides the assessment methods, identifies affected parties and invites public participation for agreement on debatable issues. In which public participation involves interactions of all stakeholders including project beneficiaries, local people, private sectors, NGOs, scientists and other.
It is on-going process and is likely to continue in the planning and design phases of the project.
Scoping is important because it is possible to bring changes in the project in the early stages of the cycle of the project and it ensures the study of all possible important issues.
In this stage there is an option for cancelling or revising the project. After crossing this stage, there is little opportunity for major changes to the project.
Stage # 4. Impact Prediction:
Impact Prediction is a way of ‘mapping’ the environmental consequences of the significant aspects of the project and its alternatives.
There are two steps in impact analysis:
Identification of the impacts would have been initiated in the scoping stage itself. These initial identifications may be confirmed and new ones are added as and when the investigations reveal.
(ii) Prediction of Impacts:
Predication of impacts is both qualitative and quantitative. The scale and severity of an impact is determined by whether it is reversible or irreversible. If the impact is reversible, then it may be taken as low impact. If the adverse impact cannot be reversed then the impact is said to be high.
Duration of the impact is equally important to understand. The chronological aspects of impacts, arising at different stages must be taken into account.
Thus, it may be categorized into:
(i) Short-term (3-9 years)
(ii) Medium-term (10-20 years)
(iii) Long-term (beyond 20 years)
Stage # 5. Mitigation:
This stage includes recommended actions that can offset the adverse impacts of the project. This is done with the idea of lessening the negative effects and improving the scope for project benefits.
Mitigating measures may be:
(i) Preventive: public awareness programmes
(ii) Compensatory: to reduce potential reactions
(iii) Corrective: putting into place devices and installations
Stage # 6. Reporting To Decision-Making Body:
The project authorities have to furnish the following documents for environmental appraisal of a development project.
(i) Detailed project report (DPR)
(ii) Filled in questionnaire
(iii) Environmental impact statement (EIS): EIS should provide the possible impact (positive and negative) of the project.
Some of the issues to be included are:
1. Impact on soil, water (hydrologic regime, ground water and surface water) and air quality
2. Impact on land use, forests, agriculture, fisheries, tourism, recreation etc.
3. Socio-economic impact including short and long-term impact on population
4. Impact on health
5. Impact on flora, fauna and wildlife, particularly endemic and endangered species, and
6. Cost benefits analysis including the measures for environmental protection.
(iv) Environmental Management Plan (EMP):
It covers the following aspects:
1. Safeguards and control measures proposed to prevent or mitigate the adverse environmental impact
2. Plans for habitation of project outers
3. Contingency plans for dealing with accidents and disasters
4. Monitoring add feedback mechanisms on implementation of necessary safeguards.
(v) Human Exposure Assessment Location (HEAL):
The concept of Human Exposure Assessment Location (HEAL) was developed as a part of the health-related monitoring programme by WHO in cooperation with UNEP, and the project has three components, viz., air quality monitoring, water quality monitoring and food contamination monitoring on a global basis.
In our country, Chembur and central Bombay city have been identified for such study of human exposure with reference to pollutants such as chlorinated pesticides (DDT and BHC), heavy metals (lead, cadmium) and air pollutants (nitrogen oxides).
Stage # 7. Public Hearing:
After the completion of EIA report the law requires that the public must be informed and consulted on a proposed development after the completion of EIA report.
Any one likely to be affected by the proposed project is entitled to have access to the executive summary of the EIA.
The affected person may include:
(i) Bonafide local residents;
(ii) Local associations;
(iii) Environmental groups active in the area
(iv) Any other person located at the project site/ sites of displacement
They are to be given an opportunity to make oral/written suggestions to the State Pollution Control Board as per Schedule IV of the act.
Stage # 8. Review (EIA Report):
Once the final report is prepared, it may be reviewed based on the comments and inputs of stakeholders.
Stage # 9. Decision-Making:
The final decision is based on the EIA to approve or reject the project. This is open to administrative or judicial review based on procedural aspects.
Stage # 10. Post Project Monitoring & Environment Clearance Condition:
Once a project is approved, then it should function as per the conditions stipulated based on environmental clearance. These conditions have to be strictly monitored and implemented.
Monitoring should be done during both construction and operation phases of a project. This is not only to ensure that the commitments made are complied with, but also to observe whether the predictions made in the EIA reports were correct or not.