Demand of the question:
It expects students to write about negative impact of infrastructure development as a biodiversity loss. It also expects students to write about how the Environment impact assessment can help to reconcile the developmental needs with conservation imperatives.
The loss of biodiversity due to large scale infrastructural developmental programmes has wide scale implications. In this scenario, Environmental impact assessment which is a process of evaluating the likely environmental impacts of a proposed project or development, taking into account inter-related socio-economic, cultural and human-health impacts, both beneficial and adverse can prove to be useful to conserve the biodiversity.
Humans have evolved, grown and thrived, in nature. Modern human society needs the resources of nature to thrive. The infrastructural developments impact the biodiversity in various ways, hence biodiversity loss is associated with the infrastructural development as follows:
- Increasing land demand: Due to the growing human population, wetlands are being made dry through landfills, as the demand for land increases. Natural forests are cleared for industry, agriculture, dams, habitation, recreational sports, etc.
- The most dramatic examples of habitat loss come from tropical rain forests. Once covering more than 14 per cent of the earth’s land surface, these rain forests now cover no more than 6 per cent. They are being destroyed fast.
- The Amazon rain forest (it is so huge that it is called the ‘lungs of the planet’) harbouring probably millions of species is being cut and cleared for cultivating soya beans or for conversion to grasslands for raising beef cattle.
- Man-Animal Conflict: It refers to the interaction between wild animals and people and the resultant negative impact on people or their resources, or wild animals or their habitat.
- It occurs when wildlife needs overlap with those of human populations, creating costs to residents and wild animals.
- Land use transformation: Industrialization, infrastructure development, commercial farming etc. leads to species habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation due to above-mentioned reasons. In turn reducing their survival chances hence loss of biodiversity.
- Increasing livestock population in the livestock sector is encroaching on the necessary fodder for wild herbivores and led to competitive exclusion of wild herbivores.
In this way biodiversity loss is associated with the infrastructural development. However, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process can help to reduce the scale of negative impact of infrastructural development on biodiversity los in following ways:
- UNEP defines Environmental Impact Assessment (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.
- Thus it ensures that there will be minimal negative impact on the surrounding once an infrastructural development programme is implemented. It also ensures the conservation of biodiversity in sustainable way.
- EIA involves certain processes such as screening, scoping, collection of baseline data, risk assessment etc. which help to analyse scale of impact and its probable solutions.
- EIA links environment with development for environmentally safe and sustainable development.
- EIA provides a cost effective method to eliminate or minimize the adverse impact of developmental projects.
- EIA enables the decision makers to analyse the effect of developmental activities on the environment well before the developmental project is implemented.
- EIA encourages the adaptation of mitigation strategies in the developmental plan.
- EIA makes sure that the developmental plan is environmentally sound and within the limits of the capacity of assimilation and regeneration of the ecosystem.
Hence, in these ways Environmental Impact Assessment help in reconciling the developmental needs with conservation imperatives.
With its pre-development assessment approach EIA could prove to be a game changer for developmental needs and conservation imperatives. EIA’s implementation in true letter and spirit can surely help to cope up with infrastructural development while conserving the wonderful biodiversity of our planet earth.