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Essay on the EIA
- Essay on the Introduction to Environmental Impact Assessment
- Essay on the Development/ Evolution of EIA
- Essay on the Objectives of Environmental Impact Assessment
- Essay on the Benefits of EIA
- Essay on Environmental Impact Assessment in India
- Essay on the EIA Action Plan
- Essay on the Role of Whistle Blowers in EIA
- Essay on the Drawbacks of EIA in India
Essay # 1. Introduction to Environmental Impact Assessment:
The economic development and the environmental sustenance are two aspects, which are intricately inter-linked. The economic development of any nation includes the development in the primary, secondary and tertiary sectors.
What are the costs of such development, not in terms of money but in terms of its impact on our environment?
Agriculture, mining, manufacturing, transportation and telecommunication sectors have very harmful impact on our environment. Such impact led to degradation of our land, forests, water, air and biological diversity by release of toxic chemicals and other effluents.
All developmental activities will have an impact on the environment. In few cases, the impact may be absorbed by nature over a long period of time. But, in others the impact of the development is very severe, irreversible and irrecoverable.
The environmental impact assessment is a tool of 20th century to strike a balance between development and environment.
A technical and systematic study is done before starting of any project to assess the probable future impact on environment and how to mitigate, so that its negative impact may be least on environment.
The term Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) or Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) are often used interchangeably to analyze environmental impacts. The term EIA is used in India and Canada. In the USA, it is called as Environmental Assessment (EA).
Broader Aspects of EIA:
(i) Appraisal of prevailing environmental conditions;
(ii) Appraisal of production methods – both existing and proposed;
(iii) Methodologies related to Environmental Impact Assessment.
(iv) Possible impact of projects on environment – both existing and proposed;
(v) Development of the techniques of conservation of environment by modifying and improving the existing production technology.
Characteristic Features of a Good EIA:
(i) Be Transparent
(ii) Be participatory in nature
(iii) Be accountable
(iv) Be reliable
(v) Be flexible
(vi) Be practical
Essay # 2. Development/ Evolution of EIA:
Project review based on the technical/ engineering and economic analysis. Limited consideration given to environmental consequences.
EIA introduced by NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) in 1970 in US. Its basic principle: Guidelines, procedures including public participation requirement instituted.
Standard methodologies for impact analysis developed (e.g. matrix, checklist and network).
Canada, Australia and New Zealand became the first countries to follow NEPA in 1973-1974. Unlike Australia, which has legislated EIA, Canada and New Zealand established administrative procedures.
III. Late 1970 and Early 1980s:
More formalized guidance.
Other industrial and developing countries introduced formal EIA requirements Strategic Environment Assessment (SEA), risk analysis included in EA processes. Greater emphasis was on ecological modeling, prediction and evaluation methods. There was a provision for public involvement.
Coordination of EA with land use planning processes.
IV. Mid 1980s to End of Decade:
In Europe, EC Directive on EIA establishes basic principle and procedural requirements for all member states. There was an increasing effort to address cumulative effects.
World Bank and other leading international aid agencies establish EA requirements, along with spread of EIA process in Asia.
Requirement to consider trans-boundary effects under Espoo convention (The Espoo (EIA) Convention sets out the obligations of Parties to assess the environmental impact of certain activities at an early stage of planning.
It also lays down the general obligation of States to notify and consult each other on all major projects under consideration that are likely to have a significant adverse environmental impact across boundaries).
Other aspects include increased use of GIS and other information technologies, sustainability principal and global issues receive increased attention, formulation of EA legislation by many developing countries, and rapid growth in EA training.
India also adopted the EIA formally.
Essay # 3. Objectives of Environmental Impact Assessment:
1. Immediate Objectives:
It is to understand the possible impacts (negative and positive) of a developmental project on environment, to ensure that the public would be given early and sufficient opportunity in the decision-making procedure and helping the developer to design a more publically acceptable project.
Other impacts were assessing the potential loss or damage to the biodiversity, the natural habitat and the cultural heritage sites, to propose mitigation plan to minimize the negative impacts through appropriate measures, to design the proposal in environment friendly manner, and to facilitate the decision-making process and setting of the terms and conditions for implementing the project and post-project monitoring.
2. Long-Term Objectives:
By effective environmental impact assessment procedures, it is possible to escape from the irreversible and irrevocable damage to the environment and hence, the long-term safeguards to conserve the biodiversity and its habitat.
It increases the social dimension of the project proposals involving the sentiments, the health and safety of the people and development of the community.
The economic prosperity would be achieved by the development projects implemented in the systematic way as per the guidelines issued based on the EIA. Thus, EIA acts as an instrument for sustainable development.
Essay # 4. Benefits of EIA:
(i) EIA facilitates informed decision-making by providing clear, systematic and unbiased analysis of the effect and consequences of proposed projects.
(ii) EIA provides for screening out and early withdrawal of environmentally unsound proposals; hence, it saves the time and cost of the project.
(iii) It assists in the selection of alternative designs with modification to reduce negative environmental impacts and selects the best practicable and most environmentally friendly options.
(iv) EIA predicts major adverse impacts and identifies mitigation measures to reduce or eliminate major impacts of the proposed project.
(v) EIA creates awareness and promotes the understanding about the project to the affected communities and individuals.
(vi) It influences the decision-making process and the development of terms and conditions without affecting the interests of all stakeholders and also the environment and related rules.
(vii) It also lowers the conflicts between the project and the local community by sharing and involving the people in decision making.
Essay # 5. Environmental Impact Assessment in India:
The environmental impact assessment in India was started in 1976-77, when the Planning Commission asked the then Department of Science and Technology to examine the river-valley projects from environmental angle.
This was subsequently extended to cover those projects, which required approval of the Public Investment Board. These were administrative decisions, and lacked the legislative support.
The Government of India enacted the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. To achieve the objectives of the Act, one of the decisions that were taken is to make environmental impact assessment statutory.
After following the legal procedure, a notification was issued on 27th January 1994 and subsequently amended on 4th May 1994, 10th April 1997 and 27th January 2000 making environmental impact assessment statutory for 30 activities.
This is the principal piece of legislation governing environmental impact assessment.
At present the EIA is needed for the following projects:
1. Major projects like:
(i) River valley
(ii) Thermal power plants
(v) Nuclear power plants
(vi) Railways, national highways, roads, bridges
(vii) Ports and harbors
(ix) New towns
(x) Communication projects
2. Those project requiring the approval of the public investment board, central electricity authorities, etc.
3. Those referred to the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change by other ministries for any projects.
4. Those which are located in environmentally sensitive places.
Some Examples are:
(i) Religious and historic places
(ii) Archaeological monuments
(iii) Scenic and aesthetic areas
(iv) Hill resorts, mountains, hills and plateaus
(v) Sea beaches
(vi) Coastal areas characterized with coral formation
(vii) Health resorts
(viii) Estuaries and mangroves
(ix) Biosphere reserves
(x) National parks and sanctuaries
5. Those projects which cost more than Rs. 50 crores.
Environmental clearance is granted by the Impact Assessment Agency in the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate change. This power has been delegated to the state governments in the case of power generation plants of any capacity, gas/ naphtha based and coal based power plants of up to 250 MW capacity except when located within a boundary of 25 km of the reserved forests, biosphere reserves and critically polluted areas or within 50 km of interstate boundary. Depending on the nature of the project, certain safeguards are recommended.
For monitoring and timely implementation of safeguards, six regional offices of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change have been set up at:
(v) Lucknow, and
A National Environmental Appellate Authority has been constituted to hear appeals with respect to rejection of proposals from the environmental angle. The objective is so bring in transparency in the process and accountability, and to ensure the smooth and expeditious implementation schemes and projects.
Besides this the Government has issued a number of other notifications, which are related to environmental impact assessment which are limited to specific geographical areas.
Those areas are:
Prohibiting location of industries except those related to Tourism in a belt of 1 km from high tide mark from the Revdanda Creek up to Devgarh Point (near Shrivardhan) as well as in 1 km belt along the banks of Rajpuri Creek in Murud Janjira area in the Raigarh district of Maharashtra, 1989.
Also they are the restricting location of industries, mining operations and regulating other activities in Doon Valley, Dehradun, 1989. This is to regulate activities in the coastal stretches of the country by classifying them as coastal regulation zone and prohibiting certain activities, 1991.
Restricting location of industries and regulating other activities in Dahanu Taluka in Maharashtra, 1991.
To restrict certain activities in specified areas of Aravalli Range in the Gurgaon district of Haryana and Alwar district of Rajasthan, 1992.
To regulate industrial and other activities, which can lead to pollution and congestion in an area north west of Numaligarh in Assam, 1996.
EIA Scenario in India:
Environmental clearance from the Central Governments is required for 32 categories of developmental projects.
These are categorized under the following industrial sectors:
2. Thermal power plants
3. River valley
4. Infrastructure (road, highway, ports, harbours and airports)
5. Industries including very small electroplating or foundry units
Certain activities permissible under the Coastal Regulation Zone Act, 1991 also require similar clearance.
Donor agencies operating in India like the World Bank and the ADB have a different set of requirements for giving environmental clearance to projects that are funded by them.
Essay # 6. EIA Action Plan:
The Indian government formulated an Environment action programme (EAP) in January 1994. The main objective of this programme is to strengthen environment impact assessment (EIA) of various projects through an organized system of natural resources accounting and environmental statistics.
The environment action programme focuses on the following areas:
(i) Conservation of biodiversity including forests, marine life and mountain ecosystems.
(ii) Conservation of soil and moisture and ensuring that water resources do not get polluted,
(iii) Control of industrial pollution and waste,
(iv) Access to clean technologies
(v) Tackling urban environmental issues
(vi) Strengthening environmental education, training, awareness and resources management,
(vii) Alternative energy plan.
The Programme envisaged in EAP co-ordinate with the thrust areas identified in the Agenda 21 adopted at the Earth Summit in June 1992.
Essay # 7. Role of Whistle Blowers in EIA:
Most of the time, the dirty task of unearthing and exposing an EIA fraud is done by a third party NGO, fourth estate (media) and rarely by a conscientious government official. The right to information act has made life somewhat easy for the activists and others engaged in showing the mirror to society.
Considering the risks involved in whistle blowing when mighty corporates are involved in projects, whose political and economic clout cannot be matched by lesser mortals, the government has given some reason to cheer to the common man by appointing accredited agencies to prepare EIA reports in 2010.
National Green Tribunal was constituted in 2010 to handle the disputes related to environmental issues. Reducing the burden on the higher courts, the tribunal ensures speedy reprisal of cases. The NGT has also been looking into appeals against EC clearance given by Ministry of environment, forest, climate change. In June 2014, the NGT struck down an EIA report on the controversial international Greenfield airport project by the KGS group at Aranmula, Kerala.
Impact Assessment of Coal-Based Thermal Power Plants:
Among the fossil fuels, coal is available abundantly in India and so is used as raw material for the production of electricity in thermal power plants.
Out of the total installed capacity of power generation, about 70% is produced by the thermal plants utilizing coal as raw material.
The coal available in India is of very low quality with high ash contents and low calorific value. Also the principle involved in the power plants is the combustion of coal, which generates useful heat energy along with very harmful substances like carbon dioxide, sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides, CFCs, air-borne inorganic particulates, such as fly ash and suspended particulate matter (SPM).
Carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides and CFCs are greenhouse gases and they have direct impact on the global warming and climate change.
The emission of SPM and the release of greenhouse gases are also catalyzed by inefficient combustion technologies.
The fly ash is a big problem and presently every year about 12.21 million tons of fly ash is produced in India, out of which one-third of it goes into the air and rest is dumped on land or in water. The disposal of the fly ash is a big challenge and lot of research is going on for its usage in making bricks, cement and ceramics.
The coal-based thermal power plants are considered as the worst polluting industry affecting the general aesthetics of environment with respect to land use, the health hazards and causes pollution in ail spheres of environment – air, soil and water.
1. Developed Counties:
i. There is a well-framed EIA legislation in place.
ii. In developed countries, active involvement of all participants including competent authority, government agencies and affected people at early stages of the EIA. Making it, a robust process.
iii. Integrated approach to EIA followed. All aspects including social and health had been taken into account.
iv. Proper consideration of alternatives in EIA.
v. The process of screening is well defined by competent authorities based on certain criteria.
vi. Scoping process is comprehensive and involves consultation with all the stakeholders.
vii. Most report in local language.
viii. A multi-disciplinary approach. Involvement of expert with expertise in different areas.
ix. Two tier of EIA review. One conducted after the completion of EIA to check the adequacy and effectiveness of EIA and the second done before decision-making.
x. Expertise in EIA: The International Association for Impact Assessment (AIA) and other organizations demonstrate that there are a large number of individuals with the capability to design, conduct, review and evaluate EIAs from countries of the North. The major portion of teaching about environmental assessment also takes place in industrial countries.
2. EIA in Developing Countries:
i. There is a lack of formal EIA legislation in many developing countries.
ii. There is a limited involvement of public and government agencies in the initial phases. Poor representation affects the quality of the report.
iii. Mainly environmental aspects considered. Poor in social and health aspects.
iv. The consideration of alternatives in developing countries is more or less absent.
v. In developing countries, screening practice in EIA is weak with a list of activities but without any thresholds.
vi. Scoping process in most developing countries is very poorly defined or absent while some countries have a general checklist, the others have no public consultation. Moreover, in most developing countries, scoping is often directed towards meeting pollution control requirements, rather than addressing the full range of potential environmental impacts from a proposed development.
vii. Most reports in English and not in the local language.
viii. Lack of trained EIA professionals often leads to the preparation of inadequate and irrelevant EIA reports in developing countries same as developing country. The preparation of EIA is done by consultants. Therefore, the selection criterion for the organization is fees/ cost rather than the expertise of EIA team.
ix. Poor review or monitoring.
x. The expertise in EIA is slowly developing.
3. EIA in India:
i. There is Formal legislation for EIA. It has been enacted by making an amendment in the
ii. There is limited involvement of public and government agencies in the initial phases.
iii. No provision in place to cover landscape and visual impacts in the India EIA regulations.
iv. The consideration of alternatives is more or less absent.
v. Screening done on the basis of a defined list. A threshold value on size of the project has been used to decide whether the project will be cleared by the state government or the central government.
vi. Earlier scoping was done by consultant or proponent with an inclination towards meeting pollution control requirements. However, the new notification has put the onus of scoping on the expert committee based on the information provided by the proponent. Consultation with public is optional and depends on the discretion of the expert committee.
vii. Most reports in English. In some case, executive summary is translated into local language.
viii. Same as developing country. The Preparation of EIA is done by consultants. Therefore, the selection criterion for the organization is fees/ cost rather than the expertise of EIA team.
ix. In India too, EIA review is not upto the marks. The review agency called Impact Assessment Agency (IAA) lacks inter-disciplinary capacity. No representation of NGO in IAA, which is a violation of the EIA notification.
x. Expertise in this area is developing.
Essay # 8. Drawbacks of EIA in India:
1. Loopholes in EIA:
While the adoption of EIA procedures is considered an important milestone in the field of good governance in environment in India, there are many loopholes in the EIA procedures. The role played by various stakeholders is evidently inadequate and faulty. The strengthening of the EIA procedures is considered necessary as there are many gaps when it comes to implementing things on the ground. It has become a common practice to fudge data or furnish data without adequate field study.
2. Dilution through Amendments:
It is to be noted that since 1994, the EIA has been amended 14 times not so much to make it more stringent but only to make it lax.
3. Corruption and Bribery:
Some EIA scams occurred because of the preparation of the ElAs by passing the procedures and committing mistakes deliberately and willfully with vested interests. As a result, sometimes, environmentally unsafe projects are also being permitted.
4. Violation of Procedures and Quality of EIA Reports:
The EIA reports sometimes are prepared without undergoing proper procedure, creating great debacles socially as well as legally.
5. Monitoring and Compliance of EC Conditions:
The project once started base on the environmental clearance is expected to follow as per the EC conditions. Sometimes, they are not strictly followed.
6. Availability of Reliable Environmental Database:
Sometimes, the availability of environmental database is insufficient and ElAs prepared with such data may be not up to the mark.
7. Technical Manpower:
The technical manpower, who are engaged in the process of EIA are sometimes not up to the mark and subsequently, the ElAs also are of low quality. EIA reports prepared by the so called “experts” have a chance of misrepresentation of environmental impacts of the projects.