What is Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)?
EIA can be defined as a decision making tool to analyse and monitor the environmental impacts of a proposed activity, project or development. It is a decision making entity which analyse the proposed projects while considering socio-economic, cultural and human-health impacts.
United Nations Environment Programme considered EIA as a tool to predict the environmental, social and economic impacts at an early stage of a project and finds ways to mitigate adverse impacts.
Benefits of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
- Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) protects the environment.
- Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) works as a bridge between the environment and sustainable development.
- EIA ensures economical usage of natural resources.
- EIA helps to execute the project in a time bound manner and also reduces the project cost.
- Properly exercised EIA also decreases the conflicts among promoting communities.
- EIA can stimulate growth and production in the local economy.
Properly executed EIA can be a huge boost for a project in all stages starting from screening and impact analysis, through the construction and operations to the decommissioning of the project.
History of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
EIA has been evolved in large scale since it was first introduced into U.S. environmental policy in the 1960s. Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) gained it’s popularity and many other countries started to implement EIA policy throughout the 1970s and early 1980s. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Union have tremendously pushed for implementing EIAs in global scale in the 1980s. The United Nations gave EIA a substantial push in 1992 through the Rio Declaration, which recognised EIAs as a “national instrument” to be used for all projects likely to have significant adverse environmental impacts.
EIA in India
The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MEF) of India issued an EIA notification under the Environmental (Protection) Act 1986 and made Environmental Clearance (EC) a mandatory tool for expansion or creation of any kind of projects or activity.Since then EIA notification of 1994 experienced 12 amendments.
How Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) works
The whole EIA process undergoes different stages to create a final output known as Environmental Statement or Report.
EIA Consists Eight Steps
- Screening stage where EIA analyses the proposed project and predicts the level of assessment required.
- Scoping stage where EIA identifies the key issues and impacts which is to be reconsidered.
- Impact analysis stage where EIA recognizes the potential environmental and social impact of the proposed project and evaluates the significance.
- Mitigation In this step EIA gives recommendation to mitigate the potential adverse environmental consequences.
- Reporting This stage generates the result of EIA in a form of a report.
- Review of EIA the step reexamines the viability of the EIA report and provides the information necessary for decision-making.
- Decision-making It decides whether the project is to be rejected or approved or needs some modifications.
- Post monitoring phase is the final step where EIA ensures and re-examines whether the impacts of the project are under the sanctioned limit or not.
The Government of India has proposed a new draft which includes some controversial and contentious changes in rules.
- Projects can receive post-facto clearance. It means even if a project is violating the guidelines under EIA, will be eligible to get the environmental clearance.
- The new draft also exempts all thee government project and termed them as “strategic”.The draft says that no information on “such projects shall be placed in the public domain“. All inland waterways and national highways projects are included into the exempted list.
- The proposed draft includes that the violations can only be reported by a government representative or the project proponent. Local people can not report against the ongoing project even it violates the norms.
- One of the most controversial provisions of the new draft is that projects those started without environmental clearances can actually be legalized.
Significance of EIA In Recent Times
Now focus on two recent mishaps
- Vishakhapatnam gas leak in LG Polymers
- Assam gas leak incident in Oil India Limited’s Baghjan Oilfield operated by John Energy Pvt
Now the alarming fact is both the projects were operating without environmental clearance. It clearly can indicate how devastating the output would be if the proposed draft is implemented.
The proposed draft of Environmental Impact Assessment basically weakens public consultation process and emboldens violators. The draft of EIA notification goes against the core idea that an assessment should be done before a project starts or at an early stage of a project. If all the provisions and changes made in proposed draft are accepted, it will bring a structural annihilation to the socio-economic, cultural and human-health in the long run.