The term ‘EIA’ originated from the U.S. National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, which emphasized on the inclusion of environmental impact considerations in every project planning or developmental activity along with technical and socio-economic evaluations.
Thus, it can be said that EIA is the prior assessment of the future impact of consequences of any major developmental activity on the quality and dynamism of total human environment. In fact, EIA is an effective management tool, which aims at integrating environmental factors into project planning and decision making so as to achieve ecologically sustainable development.
More than 100 countries of the world have adopted EIA legislation. Canada in 1973, Australia and New Zealand in 1974, Japan in 1981, the European Community in 1984, The Netherlands in 1986, and the UK in 1988, have enacted similar legislations at different times to conduct EIA. Government of India also brought “The Environmental Impact Assessment Notification”, 1994, under the provisions of Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, and the Environmental (Protection) Rules, 1986.
This notification was further amended (S.O. No. 60E) on 10th April 1997 making public hearing mandatory for environmental clearance. The public hearing will be conducted by the State Pollution Control Boards (SCPBs) before the project proposals are sent to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) for obtaining environmental clearance.
In fact, EIA is a systemic approach for planning, operation and monitoring of developmental projects. Keeping this in mind the RIO Declaration of the Earth Summit, 1992, has clearly laid emphasis on significance of EIA and suggested – “Environmental Impact Assessment, as a national instrument, shall be undertaken for proposed activities that are likely to have a significant adverse impact on environment and are subject to a decision of a competent national authority.”
Definition and Scope of EIA:
The EIA can be designated as an approach that seeks to improve development by a priority assessment. Munn, 1979, suggests that EIA aims at predicting and identifying the impacts on bio-geographical environment and on man’s health and well-being of legislature proposals, policies, programmes, projects and operational procedures and to interpret and communicate information about the impacts. Hagerty & Heer, 1997, defined EIA as “an activity that aims at establishing quantitative values for selected parameters, which indicate the quality of environment before, during, and after the proposed activities”.
UNEP (1987) defined EIA as an examination, analysis and assessment of planned activities with a view to ensure environmentally sound and sustainable development. In fact, EIA provides wider perspectives and consequences of any developmental project/ operation, which include administrative programmes and policies, legislative actions, and physical, chemical, biological, cultural and socio-economic compartments of the total human environment.
Although the scope of EIA is limited to major developmental projects having wider consequences on human environment but, theoretically speaking, any action, project, operation, administrative policies, plans and programmes and legislative actions etc. that have the potential to bring about significant environmental changes should be subjected to EIA exercise.
As per “The Environmental Impact Assessment Notification”, 1994, of Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India, expansion of modernization of any activity (if pollution load is to exceed the existing one) or a new project listed in Schedule 1 of the notification shall not be undertaken in any part of India unless it has been accorded environmental clearance by the Central Government in accordance with the procedure hereinafter specified in this notification.
In India, the following projects are listed in Schedule I of the aforesaid notification:
(i) Nuclear Power and related projects such as heavy water plants, nuclear fuel complex, and rare earths.
(ii) River valley projects including hydel power, major irrigation and their combination including flood control.
(iii) Ports, harbours, airports (except minor ports and harbours).
(iv) Petroleum Refineries including crude and product pipelines.
(v) Chemical fertilizers (Nitrogenous and Phosphatic, other than single superphosphate).
(vi) Pesticides (Technical).
(vii) Petrochemical complexes (Both Olefinic and Aromatic) and Petrochemical intermediate, such as DMT, Caprolactam, LAB etc. and production of basic plastics, such as LDPE, HDPE, PP, PVC.
(viii) Bulk drugs and pharmaceuticals.
(ix) Exploration for oil and gas and their production, transportation and storage.
(x) Synthetic rubber.
(xi) Asbestos and asbestos products.
(xii) Hydrocyanic acid and its derivatives.
(xiii) (a) Primary metallurgical industries (such as production of Iron and Steel, Aluminium, Copper, Zinc, Lead and Ferro-alloys).
(b) Electric arc furnaces (Mini Steel Plants).
(xiv) Chlor-alkali industry.
(xv) Integrated paint complex including manufacture of resins and basic raw materials required in the manufacture of paints.
(xvi) Viscose Staple fibre and filament yarn.
(xvii) Storage batteries integrated with manufacture of oxides of lead and lead antimony alloy.
(xviii) All tourism projects between 200 m – 500 meters of High Tide line or at locations with an elevation of more than 1,000 meters with investment of more than Rs. 5 crores.
(xix) Thermal power plants.
(xx) Mining projects (major minerals) with leases more than 5 hectares.
(xxi) Highway Projects.
(xxii) Tarred Roads in Himalayas and/or Forest areas.
(xxiv) Raw Skins and Hides.
(xxv) Pulp, Paper and Newsprint.
(xxviii) Foundries (individual).
Characteristics of EIA:
The EIA gives a clear-cut picture of important environmental considerations which are to be incorporated in the decision-making process while setting up of the major projects.
It has many important characteristics:
(i) It provides a systemic evaluation of almost all significant environmental consequences of a developmental project
(ii) EIA is a structured, systemic and comprehensive approach
(iii) All EIA processes draw driving force by legislation
(iv) EIA is one of the most valuable and interdisciplinary decision-making tools
(v) EIA can force the policy-makers to reconsider the project proposals
(vi) It can be used to ensure regional planning for sustainable development
(vii) It ensures the accountability of decision makers to the public
(viii) It provides possible alternate development options against identified environmental impacts
(ix) EIA document should be circulated for objective review of its results by others
(x) EIA cannot be taken in isolation, rather, it is related with other factors, viz., Environmental Statement, Environmental Audit and New System of National Accounts etc.
(xi) It seeks public participation in decision making.
Objectives of EIA:
The principal objective of EIA is to ensure that the development is sustained with minimal environmental degradation. Adverse effects on environment should be minimized by incorporating suitable measures in the project planning itself on the basis of predictions regarding environmental degradation on account of project operation. The Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India, has been assigned the responsibility for appraisal of projects with regards to their future environmental implications.
Three primary objectives of EIA can be summarized:
(i) EIA predicts the likely environmental impacts of projects.
(ii) It presents these predictions and options to decision-makers.
(iii) It finds ways to reduce unacceptable impacts to shape the project so that it suits the local environment.
Components of EIA:
The key steps in EIA process are:
(i) Project Definition and Identification:
During project identification and definition, the project proponent conducts feasibility studies, defines the usefulness of the study, considers alternatives, files a notice of intention to seek EIA clearance and, ideally, initiates an inter-agency and public consultation process.
At this stage, the EIA agency determines whether the project may proceed as planned or it should be modified partially or completely. For this, the EIA agency consults the proponent and other agencies and public participants to determine the requirements of further studies.
This is also an early planning stage and deals with a more detailed plan of study for the project to identify major concerns and key impacts, and to decide assessment methods and models to be used.
Agencies and public representatives concerned with the project or the project area are consulted.
(v) Baseline Data Collection:
Baseline data collection and analyses are very important in project planning. They play an important role in primary monitoring of the environment in the project area.
(vi) Identification of Impact:
Impact prediction and assessment are the most important parts of the technical process. This can be achieved by employing suitable models and a careful evaluation of inputs and outputs of environmental impacts.
(vii) Alternative Evaluation Criteria:
They include legally-mandated criteria, technical/ scientific criteria, and social acceptability criteria. Alternative sites and design process should be critically examined to maximize the positive environmental impacts, socio-economic benefits, profitability, and minimize the temporary adverse impacts.
(viii) Management Plan:
After the identification of environmental impacts, the mitigation measures are now needed to be defined. A good management plan should have flexible project planning so that it can adopt the modified or entirely new project alternatives. It should aim to minimize adverse environmental impacts.
(ix) Publication of EIA Report:
Circulation/ Publication of EIA report is an important step. It brings public comments, which would be definitely helpful for primary stages of EIA like screening and scooping.
(x) Formal Approval (With or Without Conditions):
The decision on the EIA report is put forward in a written record with conditions that the project proponent must comply with the provisions mentioned in the document.
(xi) Monitoring and Compliance:
A careful monitoring ensures the compliance of provisions mentioned in the management plan. It not only provides confidence to workers, public agencies, and communities involved in dealing with negative impacts, but also gives useful feedback on the accuracy of the EIA’s impact predictions.
Environmental Impact Assessment Methodology:
After the inception of the NEPA, 1969, a number of methodologies and models are now available for evaluation and assessment of environmental impacts. Computer-based models are more improved than conventional subjective models.
Some of the important methods for EIA are:
1. Ad Hoc Approach:
This is the oldest and perhaps the crudest approach to EIA. This method provides very little guidance for assessing impacts on specific parameters beyond suggesting impacts on broad areas like impact on land, forests, population, water, wildlife, etc. This approach does not count secondary impacts.
It is the updated version of the ad hoc approach in which specific areas of potential impacts are listed. Checklists contain environmental parameters. Each environmental parameter for adverse, beneficial, or no effects due to proposed project activities can be simply ticked in the checklist and overall environmental impact can be evaluated. This method is usually very large, subjective, and provides little guidance that can aid in the decision making process.
3. Matrix Method:
The method is attributed to Leopold et al (1971). The method uses a matrix format to relate project actions and environmental components.
Procedure for Obtaining EIA Clearance:
In India, Environmental clearance for mega- developmental projects can be obtained from Ministry of Environment and Forest by submitting prescribed application form (Schedule II, Sub-para I (a) of Para II of The Environmental Impact Assessment Notification, 1994). For this project authorities have to submit detailed information regarding the future environmental implications of the project concerned.
Duties of the Project Authorities:
The project authorities have to furnish the following documents for environmental appraisal of a developmental project:
1. Detailed project report
2. Filled-in questionnaire
3. Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) along with Environmental Management Plan.
4. Positive or negative impact of the project.
Some of the issues to be included are:
(i) Impact on soil, water and air quality.
(ii) Impact on land use, forests, agriculture, fisheries, tourism, recreation etc.
(iii) Socio-economic impacts including short and long-term impact on population.
(iv) Impact on health.
(v) Impact on fauna and flora — particularly endemic and endangered species.
(vi) Cost-benefit analysis including the measures for environmental protection.
There is a separate EIA Wing for this purpose.
The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Government of India, has an environmental impact assessment wing, comprising three divisions, each dealing with projects in specific areas:
(a) Impact Assessment Division I:
River Valley project, major irrigation projects and hydel power projects.
(b) Impact Assessment Division II:
Industrial projects, thermal power projects and mining projects.
(c) Impact Assessment Division III:
Ports and harbour projects, tourism projects, human settlement projects, projects in ecologically fragile areas and communication projects.
For the purpose of seeking environmental clearance of mega-development projects, MoEF has a multi-disciplinary Environmental Appraisal Committee (EAC).
The EAC has following specific sectors:
1. River valley, multipurpose, irrigation and hydel power.
2. Industrial projects.
3. Mining projects.
4. Thermal power projects.
There are provisions for constituting expert committees for EIA as per guidelines of Schedule III of The Environmental Impact Assessment Notification, 1994.
1. The committees will consist of experts in the following disciplines:
(i) Eco-System Management
(ii) Air/Water Pollution Control
(iii) Water Resource Management
(iv) Flora/Fauna Conservation and Management
(v) Land Use Planning
(vi) Social Sciences/Rehabilitation
(vii) Project Appraisal
(ix) Environmental Health
(x) Subject Area Specialists
(xi) Representatives of NGOs/Persons Concerned with Environmental Issues.
2. The Chairman will be an outstanding and experienced ecologist or environmentalist or technical professional with wide managerial experience.
3. The representative of IAA will act as Member-Secretary.
4. Chairman and members will serve in their individual capacities except those specifically nominated as representatives.
5. The membership of a Committee shall not exceed 15.
Preparation of EIA Document:
The general format for submitting EIA document should have following heads and their details:
(i) Cover Page
(iii) Table of Content
(v) Purpose and Need (Objective)
(vi) Available Alternatives
(vii) Comparison of Alternatives
(viii) Affected Environment and Consequence
(ix) Mitigation of Adverse Effects and Mitigation Action Plan
(x) Comments and Responses to the Comments
(a) Minutes of the meeting held
(b) List of Persons/Institutions, to whom the copies of EIA Reports are being sent.
The EIA document should be circulated for comments in respect of Completeness, Adequacy and Merit Revision.