The Role and Importance of EIA

Environmental protection and resource management are traditionally given importance all over the world in recent times. Ancient practices taught people to live in perfect harmony with nature. However, over the years, industrialization, urbanization and changing lifestyles have greatly affected the environment by causing environmental pollution and environmental degradation.

What is an EIA

Pollution in air, water and soil has led to ecological imbalance and potential health hazards. As a result, regulations have been introduced in the form of laws and policies regarding the protection of the environment. Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is one such effort.

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is the formal evaluation process for identifying, estimating, evaluating and justifying the ecological, social and related biophysical effects of a proposed policy, program or project on the environment. It gives insight into alternatives and measures that should be adopted before any commitment, thus helping to make important decisions. The overall aim of the EIA is to design development projects and activities taking into account the environmental perspective.

Functions of EIA

EIA provides the following benefits:

  • an opportunity for public participation,
  • greater protection of human health,
  • sustainable use of natural resources,
  • reduced project costs and delays,
  • minimizing environmental disaster risks,
  • and increased government responsibility.

EIA specifically aims to optimize the balance between development activities and socio-ecological losses. It is a management tool closely linked to the project that provides appropriate environmental information within the stipulated time.

Legislation

Many countries now have mandatory legislation or policies for environmental impact assessments. Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was officially implemented in India in 1994. Both central and state authorities share responsibility for development and management together. The post-project evaluation analysis report on Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat (SWOT) highlights various constraints such as inappropriate screening and coverage, ineffective monitoring, and provides necessary guidelines. The legislation provides the realization of the opportunity to raise public awareness, increase the initiatives of environmental groups and business, and integrate environmental thinking into plans and policies. Some of the unforeseen threats to the system are poor governance, rapid economic reforms, and favors to small-scale units.

The EIA process consists of three basic steps:

(a) Preparation of the report: Includes screening, scoping and documentation.

Scanning

The screening determines whether an EIA is required, an EIA is required for any project in ecologically sensitive areas and covered by the coastal zone regulation.

Scoping

Scoping identifies concerns and issues to be addressed for a particular project. It includes the following steps:

  1. Baseline analysis: Through baseline analysis, the environmental changes resulting from the project are compared with the expected environmental changes without the proposed project.
  2. Impact estimation: Forecast analysis estimates the nature and significance of expected impacts.
  3. Mitigation measures: Environmental Management Plan (EMP), risk assessment report and disaster management plan (if hazardous materials are present in the project), rehabilitation plan (if people are expected to be displaced) are prepared to recommend remedial measures.

documents

(a) A comprehensive report is prepared summarizing the description of the project, regional settings, baseline conditions, impact estimation and key findings of the study.

(b) The review and decision-making-Impact Assessment (IA) section reviews the application with details of the EIA and EMP report documents, Certificate of No-Objection (NOC), risk assessment and emergency preparedness plan, rehabilitation plan, public hearing, from the airport administration and obtaining permission from state forest departments, etc. IA is free to make site visits if it deems necessary. Based on the EIA review and other information, IS grants or denies environmental permits for the project.

(c) Post-Project Monitoring (PPM) – PPM ensures implementation in accordance with specified measures while providing environmental permit (EC). Thus, it fulfills the dual task of identifying the actual environmental impacts of the project and implementing the desired mitigation measures of the EMP.

Solution

Political commitment and public participation are essential to addressing critical issues. Improved effectiveness will also depend on the strength of government agency coordination, integrated decision-making, adequate training for various stakeholders, and supporting infrastructure for purposeful monitoring and implementation. Methods of conducting environmental impact assessments are regularly reviewed for gradual improvement that not only helps lift current restrictions but also deals with future challenges.

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