Topic: General Studies 2,3:
- Environment Conservation
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation
Environment Impact Assessment(EIA) – Part I
Context: The government has put up for public comment the Draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2020 that would replace the 2006 notification for all future projects when enforced
What is EIA?
- UNEP defines 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.
- By using EIA both environmental and economic benefits can be achieved, such as reduced cost and time of project implementation and design, avoided treatment/clean-up costs and impacts of laws and regulations.
- EIA in India is statutorily backed by the Environment Protection Act, 1986 which contains various provisions on EIA methodology and process
- The assessment is carried out by an Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC), which consists of scientists and project management experts.
What is the philosophy behind EIA?
- The basis in global environmental law for the EIA is the “precautionary principle”. Environmental harm is often irreparable — one cannot reverse an oil spill.
- It is cheaper to avoid damage to the environment than to remedy it.
- Also, we are legally bound to the precautionary principle under international treaties and obligations, as well as by Supreme Court judgments.
History of EIA in India
- The Indian experience with EIA began in 1976-77 when the Planning Commission asked the Department of Science and Technology to examine the river-valley projects from an environmental angle.
- Till 1994, environmental clearance from the Central Government was an administrative decision and lacked legislative support.
- In 1994, the Union Environment ministry under the Environmental (Protection) Act 1986, promulgated an EIA notification making Environmental Clearance (EC) mandatory for activity listed in Schedule 1 of the notification
- Since then there have been 12 amendments made in the EIA notification of 1994 the latest one being in 2006 which has put the onus of clearing projects on the state government depending on the size/capacity of the project.
- Additionally, donor agencies operating in India like the World Bank and the ADB have a different set of requirements for giving environmental clearance to projects that are funded by them
Image Source: CSEIndia
The EIA process
It generally consists of eight steps with each step equally important in determining the overall performance of the project
- Screening: First stage of EIA, which determines whether the proposed project, requires an EIA and if it does, then the level of assessment required.
- Scoping: This stage identifies the key issues and impacts that should be further investigated. This stage also defines the boundary and time limit of the study.
- Impact analysis: This stage of EIA identifies and predicts the likely environmental and social impact of the proposed project and evaluates the significance.
- Mitigation: This step in EIA recommends the actions to reduce and avoid the potential adverse environmental consequences of development activities.
- Reporting: This stage presents the result of EIA in a form of a report to the decision-making body and other interested parties.
- Review of EIA: It examines the adequacy and effectiveness of the EIA report and provides the information necessary for decision-making.
- Decision-making: It decides whether the project is rejected, approved or needs further change.
- Post monitoring: This stage comes into play once the project is commissioned. It checks to ensure that the impacts of the project do not exceed the legal standards and implementation of the mitigation measures are in the manner as described in the EIA report.
Part-II of the article will cover: The challenges w.r.t EIA and analysis of draft 2020 notification