Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a process of evaluating the likely environmental impacts of a proposed project or development, taking into account inter-related socio-economic, cultural and human-health impacts, both beneficial and adverse.
UNEP defines Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as a tool used to identify the environmental, social and economic impacts of a project prior to decision-making. It aims to predict environmental impacts at an early stage in project planning and design, find ways and means to reduce adverse impacts, shape projects to suit the local environment and present the predictions and options to decision-makers.
Environment Impact Assessment in India is statutorily backed by the Environment Protection Act, 1986 which contains various provisions on EIA methodology and process.
The EIA Process
EIA involves the steps mentioned below. However, the EIA process is cyclical with interaction between the various steps.
Screening: The project plan is screened for scale of investment, location and type of development and if the project needs statutory clearance.
Scoping: The project’s potential impacts, zone of impacts, mitigation possibilities and need for monitoring.
Collection of baseline data: Baseline data is the environmental status of study area.
Impact prediction: Positive and negative, reversible and irreversible and temporary and permanent impacts need to be predicted which presupposes a good understanding of the project by the assessment agency.
Mitigation measures and EIA report: The EIA report should include the actions and steps for preventing, minimizing or by passing the impacts or else the level of compensation for probable environmental damage or loss.
Public hearing: On completion of the EIA report, public and environmental groups living close to project site may be informed and consulted.
Decision making: Impact Assessment Authority along with the experts consult the project-in-charge along with consultant to take the final decision, keeping in mind EIA and EMP (Environment Management Plan).
Monitoring and implementation of environmental management plan: The various phases of implementation of the project are monitored.
Assessment of Alternatives, Delineation of Mitigation Measures and Environmental Impact Assessment Report: For every project, possible alternatives should be identified, and environmental attributes compared. Alternatives should cover both project location and process technologies.
Once alternatives have been reviewed, a mitigation plan should be drawn up for the selected option and is supplemented with an Environmental Management Plan (EMP) to guide the proponent towards environmental improvements.
Risk assessment: Inventory analysis and hazard probability and index also form part of EIA procedures.
Stakeholders in the EIA Process
*Those who propose the project
*The environmental consultant who prepare EIA on behalf of project proponent
*Pollution Control Board (State or National)
*Public has the right to express their opinion
*The Impact Assessment Agency
*Regional centre of the MoEFCC