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Environmental Impact Assessment
The purpose of an environmental impact assessment is to evaluate the environmental effects of a proposed project or development in relation to their interconnected socioeconomic, cultural, and health effects. EIA is a process that is used to assess the environmental effects of a planned development, to put it simply. Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a crucial management tool for making sure that natural resources are used as effectively as possible for sustainable development. Early project planning cycle consideration of environmental effects and their mitigation provides various advantages, including environmental protection, optimal resource utilization, and time and cost savings.
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Environmental Impact Assessment History
When the Planning Commission asked the Department of Science and Technology to investigate the river-valley projects from an environmental perspective, EIA was first conducted in 1976–1977. Environmental approval from the central government was an administrative choice made without statutory backing until 1994. According to the Environmental (Protection) Act of 1986, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MEF) issued an EIA notification in 1994 that made obtaining Environmental Clearance (EC) necessary for any activity’s extension or modernization as well as for the establishment of new projects.
What is Environmental Impact Assessment?
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is described by UNEP as a method for decision-making that can be used to determine the environmental, economic, and social effects of a project. EIA’s main goal is to assess environmental consequences early in project design, find strategies to lessen negative effects, adapt projects to the local environment, and present projections and options to decision-makers.
The use of environmental impact assessments can have positive effects on the environment as well as the economy, such as reducing the cost and duration of project implementation and design, avoiding treatment and cleanup expenses, and minimizing the effects of laws and regulations. The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio officially acknowledged the EIA process’s importance.
Environmental Impact Assessment in India
When the Planning Commission instructed the Department of Science & Technology to evaluate the river valley projects from an environmental point of view, EIA was first conducted in India in 1976–1977. This was extended to cover all projects that needed the Public Investment Board’s permission.
The Environment (Protection) Act, which was passed by the government in 1986, made EIA a legal requirement. The Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act (1972), the Water Act (1974), the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act (1981), and the Biological Diversity Act are the other major laws in this area (2002).
The Environmental Information System (ENVIS) was established by the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change in 1982 to gather, compile, store, retrieve, and disseminate data pertaining to the environmental sector. This functions as a subject-specific database distributed web network. The main goal of ENVIS is to coordinate all national initiatives to gather, store, share, and use environmental information for more effective management of environmental assessment operations.
Environmental Impact Assessment Process
The first stage of an EIA evaluates whether the project under consideration requires one, and if so, what level of assessment is necessary.
This phase identifies the main problems and effects that require additional research. This step also establishes the scope and duration of the research.
In this phase of the EIA, the project’s potential effects on the environment and society are identified, projected, and their importance is assessed.
This EIA stage makes recommendations for mitigating and avoiding any potential negative environmental effects of development operations.
The decision-making body and other interested parties are presented with the EIA’s findings at this stage in the form of a report.
Review of EIA
It evaluates the EIA report’s sufficiency and efficacy and offers the data required for making decisions.
Consultations are held between the impact assessment authority and the project proponent, who is assisted by a consultant (assisted by an expert group if necessary). The project’s final choice is made with EIA and EMP in mind (Environment Management Plan).
Once the project is commissioned, this stage is activated. It verifies that the project’s effects do not go above the legal limits and that the mitigation measures are implemented as specified in the EIA report.
Environmental Impact Assessment Significance
Facilitates Sustainable Development
The natural environment is under tremendous pressure now as a result of manmade activities including rapid industrialization, mass industry, and forest destruction. EIA tools assist in striking a balance between the necessity of economic growth and the equally crucial concept of sustainability.
Mitigating Negative Impacts & Informed Decision-Making
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) aids in reducing the detrimental effects of different development projects. It permits the establishment of monitoring programs to evaluate potential effects and supply information on which managers may make wise decisions to prevent environmental harm.
Cost effectiveness is improved because EIA aids in the selection and design of projects, programmes, or plans with long-term viability. Advance assessments also assist in preventing potential future damages that might be incurred if the project is later determined to be ecologically unsuitable. When a project is already underway, the cost of adaption is typically higher.
Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Shortcomings
The notifications are not required for a number of initiatives that have an impact on the environment as in small-scale sand mining.
Inadequate Capacity of EIA Approval Authorities
Due to crony capitalism, a connection between corporate interests and politicians, and a lack of technical and environmental experts, anthropologists, and social scientists among the members, poor decisions are made and projects that seriously hurt the environment may even be allowed.
Deficiencies in Screening, Scoping and Impact Analysis
Project evaluation does not use any independent organizations or established formats. Impact prediction becomes arbitrary in the absence of standardized baseline data. It is purportedly carried out by persons who work for the corporation, posing a conflict of interest. During the scoping process, they purposefully ignore adverse effects on forests, the environment, and impacts on tribes.
Poor Quality EIA Reports
EIA is currently utilized more as a tool for project justification than for project planning, which hinders efforts to achieve sustainable development. Along with the project’s justification, consideration should also be given to future activity planning. EIA is a tool that can be used to determine if a project is a good idea or not, but it can also be used to determine how any environmental harm can be reduced in order to make a project pollution-free and environmentally sustainable.
Initiated at a Later Stage
The fact that the EIA process is started considerably later in India, especially after the project has been designed, approved, and is practically ready for construction, is another fault in the system. Therefore, by the time EIA begins, enormous expenses have been paid and the project has grown too large to fail.
Inadequate Public Participation
Public participation is required at various points of the EIA process (such as screening, scoping, report writing, and decision making) in several nations, such as Nepal, Argentina, and Australia, although it only happens once in India throughout the entire process. The EIA notification from 2006 states that there are two approaches to conduct this public consultation. First, stakeholders are requested to submit written comments on the draught EIA report. Second, a public hearing is held at or close to the location of the potential project.
Environment Impact Assessment FAQs
Q) What is the environmental impact assessment?
Ans. An instrument used to evaluate the significant environmental impacts of a project or development proposal is the environmental impact assessment (EIA). EIAs ensure that decision-makers for projects consider the anticipated effects on the environment as soon as feasible and work to avoid, mitigate, or counteract those consequences.
Q) What are the types of environmental impact assessment?
Ans. A public environmental report (PER), an environment impact statement (EIS), or a development report are the three categories of evaluation that are permissible under the Act (DR).
Q) Who is responsible for EIA in India?
Ans. Under the Environmental (Protection) Act of 1986, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MEF), Government of India, published an EIA notification requiring environmental clearance (EC) before expanding or modernising any activity or starting new projects. It was decided to do this on January 27, 1994.
Q) What is the main aim of EIA?
Ans. EIA’s primary objective is to protect the environment and identify the optimal trade-offs between economic and environmental costs and benefits.
Q) Is EIA only for developed countries?
Ans. The EIA was initially used by affluent countries, but it was gradually adopted by developing countries, including India.
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