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Origin History And Development Of EIA Environmental Sciences Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Sciences
Wordcount: 3626 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Law of nature dictates that where there is a gain there is a loss. All developmental projects despite having positive aspects do have significant negative impacts on nearby communities and the natural environment. People and properties may be influenced in one way or the other. Disturbances to the natural environment may include soil erosion, changes to streams and underground water, and interference with animal and plant life. New projects may induce development in previously undeveloped areas while significantly affecting native environments and the lifestyles of people. Therefore, changes in natural environments are liable to disturb the existing balance in between people/animals and the environment in the form of benefits/damages. (Therivel, R. and Partidario, M. (1996))

The dilemma faced by developing countries, during the days of rapid economic growth was to escape poverty at the cost of grave pollution in natural environment. Resultantly it contributed unwillingly towards the emerging global environmental issues.

Recent awakening in social sectors and NGOs untiring efforts at global level forced the UN authorities to take remedial measures for conservation of this earth at gross level. Now International Donor Agencies and developed countries increasingly demand developing countries for environmental considerations while providing development assistance. With these backgrounds, many developing countries have already introduced EIA systems. Demand to introduce and implement EIA system is critical for developing countries, for those driving towards economic expansion under seeking the equilibrium for sustainable development. (Tsunokawa and Hoban, 1997)

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Environmental Impact Assessment is an integral part of the consent process for major development projects as for now most International Finance Institutions (IFIs) require applicants to submit an ES in support of applications for funds. Most IFIs have developed guidelines on what they expect of an EIA, and recipients are required to comply with these. The various guidelines are broadly similar in their content and advice, and all stress the continuing and contributory nature of environmental impact assessment with other components of project appraisal as part of a comprehensive process of project preparation implementation and operation. (Petts, J. (1999))


EIA is defined as:

“An environmental impact assessment (EIA) is an analytical process that systematically examines the possible environmental consequences of the implementation of projects, programs and policies.” (Kjorven, O. and Lindhjem, H. (2002))

“Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) is interdisciplinary analyses of the natural, human health, and socio-cultural effects which are expected to result from public and private sector actions such as development projects.” (Petts, J. (1999))

“An environmental impact assessment is an assessment of the possible positive or negative impact that a proposed project may have on the environment, together consisting of the environmental, social and economic aspects.” (Mercier, J-R. (2001))

“Environmental assessment is a procedure that ensures that the environmental implications of decisions are taken into account before the decisions are made. Environmental assessment can be undertaken for individual projects, such as a dam, motorway, airport or factory, on the basis of Directive known as ‘Environmental Impact Assessment’ – EIA Directive.” (Kjorven, O. and Lindhjem, H. (2002))

“Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a system for identifying and introducing measures to prevent environmental adverse impacts caused by development project. EIA could be an effective instrument to achieve sustainable development.” (Sadler, B. and Verheem, R. (1996))

The International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA) defines an environmental impact assessment as, “the process of identifying, predicting, evaluating and mitigating the biophysical, social, and other relevant effects of development proposals prior to major decisions being taken and commitments made.” (IAIA, 1999)

EIAs are unique in that they do not require adherence to a predetermined environmental outcome, but rather they require decision makers to account for environmental values in their decisions and to justify those decisions in light of detailed environmental studies and public comments on the potential environmental impacts of the proposal.

The purpose of these studies is to avoid /minimize/mitigate any significant negative impact incurred to public by systematically updating decision makers and informing the affected public through proposed actions and suggested alternatives. (Brown, A. (1997))

1.2.1 Origin, History and Development of EIA

The post-World War II scenario was a period of extraordinary economic development and environmental change. The upcoming development of jobs, housing, transportation, and energy systems were accompanied by widespread negative environmental changes including air and water pollution, destruction of ecosystems, the alteration of farmlands, and major redevelopment of historic urban centers.

The Environmental Movement of 1960s played a major role in ratification of governments fundamental new Environmental Laws. Each Law typically, addressed a specific problem. For example, the U.S. Clean Air Act, and Clean Water Act were formulated to regulate pollution by specifying allowable concentration limits on lists of specific toxic chemicals in air, water, and on land. While other laws focused on issues such as wetlands, endangered species, and historic preservation. These regulatory approaches were highly effective in spite of being quite narrow in scope. In fact, a fundamental concept of environmental understanding and stewardship was a dire need for an integrated holistic approach to knowledge building and decision making. (AsDB, 1993)

The decades following World War II were a period of extraordinary economic development and environmental change. The rapid development of jobs, housing, transportation, and energy systems were accompanied by widespread negative environmental changes including air and water pollution, destruction of ecosystems, the alteration of farmlands, and major redevelopment of historic urban centers.

EIAs was firstly used in the 1960s as part of a rational decision making process. It involved a technical evaluation that would lead to objective decision making. Finally EIA was accepted as legislation in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) 1969 of USA. This was the first legislation to provide a robust framework for allowing all recognized environmental concerns to be addressed simultaneously. The work of Lynton Caldwell was a seminal driver of United States environmental policy and legislation. He was one of the authors of NEPA. He wrote the Draft Resolution on a National Policy for the Environment that provided the theoretical foundations of NEPA. NEPA was designed so dedicatedly that it not only complemented other laws and programs but also not superseded any one. Thus EIA process was used as a means to integrate the generation and dissemination of environmental information, and foster collaboration among the diverse set of public and private actors and stakeholders which characterize major, environmentally controversial decisions. (Dalal-Clayton, B. and Sadler, B. (1998a))

Since being evolved it has been used intensely in many countries around the world. Today EIA is practiced as a decision aiding tool rather than decision making tool. After being passed as Law many international organizations e.g., the European Community, sovereign countries, provinces or states and local governments have passed their own versions of environmental impact assessment legislation. There is growing difference on the use of EIA due to its limited influence on development decisions. People opinioned that it is falling short of its full potential. A continuing research/ strong training for practitioner and guidance on EIA practice is needed for stronger foundation of EIA. (OECD, 1994)

1.2.2 Present Need for an Integrated Assessment

Environmental issues are directly linked with social problems and an integrated approach to solve both issues in a sustainable way is needed. In World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) new incentives and directions for sustainability appraisal and integrated assessment were indicated forcefully. Many paragraphs of the Plan of Implementation for the WSSD, the major document from the conference, promote the integration of the three components of sustainable development and stress the importance of a “holistic and inter-sector approach” for this purpose. Poverty eradication is identified as “the greatest global challenge facing the world today and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development, particularly for developing countries”. (UNECE, 1992)

It is a many-sided issue that can be met only by addressing the root causes of poverty and their environment-development linkages such as ill health, lack of clean water, food insecurity and vulnerability to natural hazards. This means that impact assessment (along with other policy tools) needs to become “more integrated and pro-poor”. (World Bank, 1991)

Subsequent to WSSD, UNEP has embarked on an important initiative to promote integrated assessment and planning for development. The aim is to build on current thinking and best practice regarding integrated assessment and to link it more closely to all key decision points in the development process through promotion of a framework for Strategic Integrated Planning for Sustainable Development. Thus, the need for an integrated and comprehensive approach to impact assessment and development planning has never been greater.

A number of initiatives at the global level are creating this need. One of the most important has been the establishment initially of the International Development Targets, now transformed into the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These now strongly influence the focus and direction of much of the development assistance activities of the multilateral organizations and bilateral agencies. They also have a similar effect on the internal actions of governments. Since the MDGs were agreed, the poverty Goal has gained the highest profile and probably is the most influential in guiding development efforts. There are three main challenges posed by the MDGs. First, it is necessary to ensure, to the extent possible, that actions to achieve one Goal do not compromise the ability to achieve any of the other Goals. This requires the ability not only to assess the outcome of the action on the Goal, but also the positive and negative impacts of the intended action on the ability to achieve any of the other Goals. Basically, it is an issue of ensuring the most cost-effective allocation of resources during the economic development of a country.

The second challenge relates to a potentially important weakness in the design and delivery of poverty eradication. The focus on poverty alleviation has engendered a strong emphasis on the delivery of economic benefits to the poorest people on the basis that a higher standard of living will also improve health and educational opportunities. However, the attention given to ensuring that any strategy, program or set of actions aimed at poverty alleviation is environmentally sustainable is debatable. Thus, it is imperative that efforts are made to incorporate environmental issues into poverty alleviation actions.

Finally, the Goal that each country should integrate with the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs present a major opportunity as well as a challenge. Achieving this Goal will reinforce the need for use of an integrated, cross-sectorial and comprehensive approach to guiding the design and implementation of development. (Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal (2000))

Such an approach is referred to as integrated assessment and focuses on ensuring that sustainability aspects are incorporated into policy design and decision-making. EIAs have often been criticized for having too narrow spatial and temporal scope. At present no procedure has been specified for determining a system boundary for the assessment. Some international agencies have moved almost directly from tried and tested techniques such as cost-benefit analysis to experimental use of integrated assessment with sustainability decision rules/criteria. It is clear that new approaches are needed to improve our ability to undertake such integrated assessment. (Sadler, B. 1999)

1.2.3 Goals of EIA

The main purpose of EIA is to facilitate the systematic consideration of environmental issues as part of development decision-making. It does so primarily by assembling and analyzing information on the potential environmental effects of specific development proposals and how they can be best prevented or mitigated. EIA takes place before major decisions are taken and, ideally, while feasible alternatives and options to a proposed action are still open. Thus, there are a number of key stages at which EIA can build environmental considerations into project planning and design.

The standard quality of EIA process is very important. It is achieved by confirming following things:

integrity – the EIA process will conform to agreed standards

utility – the EIA process will provide balanced, credible information for decision-making

sustainability – the EIA process will result in environmental safeguards

EIA should give a detailed statement on the environmental impact of proposals, any adverse effects which cannot be avoided, alternatives to the proposed action and making the statement available to the public

EIA process should address the environmental effects like biophysical and resource use, social and cultural effects, health and safety, economic and fiscal effects and landscape and visual effects.

EIA gives a detailed account on the type, nature, magnitude, extent, timing, duration, uncertainty, reversibility and significance of the Environmental impacts.

EIA should be capable to modify and improve design, ensure efficient resource use, enhance social aspects, identify key impacts and measures for mitigating them, inform decision-making and condition-setting, avoid serious and irreversible damage to the environment and protect human health and safety.

The EIA process should be:

purposive – meeting its aims and objectives

focused – concentrating on the effects that matter

adaptive – responding to issues and realities

participative – fully involving the public

transparent – clear and easily Understood

rigorous – employing ‘best practicable’ methodology

practical – establishing mitigation measures that work

credible – carried out with objectivity and professionalism

efficient – imposing least cost burden on proponents

EIA should be applied to all proposals with significant impacts.

EIA should begin early in the project cycle and address relevant environmental, social and health impacts.

EIA should identify and take account of public views, result in a statement of impacts and mitigation measures and facilitate informed decision making and condition setting

According to a United Nations Environment Program Training Resource Manual  the main advantages and benefits of EIA are:

improved project design/siting and decision-making;

more environmentally sensitive decisions and reduced environmental damage;

increased accountability and transparency during the development process;

improved integration of projects into their environmental and social setting;

more effective projects in terms of meeting their financial and/or socio-economic objectives;

a positive contribution toward achieving sustainability (UNEP, 2000)

ESIA refers to environmental and social impact assessment. In this way an integrated approach towards environment and society may help in the achievement of goals like to minimize Project Footprint; zero discharge of oil/chemicals to land, water etc.; minimize emissions, energy and resource use; minimize production of waste; no net loss of sensitive habitat; restoration of habitats and hydrological regimes; no permanent disruption to the livelihood of the local population and socio-economic improvement of the regions alongside the route. (ESIA, 2001)

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The overall effectiveness of EIA in meeting its aims and objectives can be improved by applying the process in accordance with the principles and guidelines. In particular, better delivery of substantive environmental and social benefits can be promoted by the systematic analysis of reasonable alternatives. For the present purposes, two types of alternatives can be distinguished, although the difference between them is not always clear.

First, there are alternatives to a proposed action, for example, changing the site, structural and non-structural options of a proposed project.

Additionally, there are alternatives within a proposed action, such as alternative processes, layouts on site or other design aspects.

Finally, and with particular reference to EIA, the “no-action” option should be included to provide an objective baseline against which the other alternatives can be measured and compared. (Green, K. and Raphael, A. (2002))

1.2.4 Need of EIA in Different Continents

A good way of subdividing environmental issues is to group them under green and brown agendas. The green agenda focuses on natural resource management and environmental protection issues while the brown agenda is concerned with issues of industrial pollution, waste management and urban development. When undertaking EIA, a comprehensive view should be taken of the linkages and interactions among the issues under review. In practice, EIA often focuses on the adverse environmental impacts of proposed actions. 

The major environmental challenges facing different parts of the world are listed in the table below.

Table 1.1

Environmental Issues of Different Continents


Major Environmental Issues


Africa has the world’s poorest and most resource dependent population. Severe environmental problems include desertification and soil degradation, declining food security, and increasing water scarcity and stress in north, east and southern Africa.

Asia and the Pacific region

Rapid economic growth, population growth, urbanization and industrialization not only helped in poverty alleviation but also increased pressure on land and water resources, widespread environmental degradation and high pollution levels.

Eastern Europe and Central Asia

There is a legacy of industrial pollution and contaminated land in these continents. In many areas, emissions of particulates, SO2, lead, heavy metals and toxic chemicals continue to expose the residents to health risks.

Latin America and the Caribbean

Many cities are poor, overcrowded, polluted and lack basic infrastructure. The major green issue is the destruction of tropical forests and consequent loss of biodiversity, which is especially serious in the Amazon basin.

Middle East

Here, most of the land is either subject to desertification or deterioration from saline, alkaline and/or nutrient deposition. Water resources are under severe pressure. Rapid and uncontrolled urbanization has caused air and water pollution in urban centers.

(Source: UNEP, 2000; World Bank, 2000)

Many of these continents are now taking active part in environmental impact assessment and mitigation. Despite a lack of internationally consistent practice, integrated impact assessment, linking biophysical and socio-economic effects, is identified as an important priority in agenda. As a widely adopted process that already covers other impacts, EIA is recognized as one of the best available mechanisms for implementing an integrated approach. In practice, achieving this approach will require greater attention to be given to the identification of social, health and other impacts in the EIA process. (Dalal-Clayton, B. and Sadler, B. (1998b))

1.2.5 Steps of EIA

The main steps for EIA process are: project identification and definition, screening, scoping, data collection and analysis, impact prediction, mitigation, monitoring, identification of the mitigation measures, circulation and review of EIA and public hearing, publication of EIA report, approval with or without conditions and compliance of monitoring and impact management.

1.3 Structure of the Report

Chapter#1: Introduction

Chapter#2: Policy, Legal and Administrative Framework

Chapter#3: Project Description

Chapter#4: Baseline Environmental Data

Chapter#5: Stakeholders Consultation

Chapter#6: Potential Environmental Impacts and Mitigation Measures

Chapter#7: Environmental Monitoring and Management Plan

Chapter#8: Conclusion and Recommendations


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