Environmental impact assessment

Environmental impact assessment

Overview
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 natural
Natural environment
The natural environment encompasses all living and non-living things occurring naturally on Earth or some region thereof. It is an environment that encompasses the interaction of all living species....

, social and economic aspects.

The purpose of the assessment is to ensure that decision makers consider the ensuing environmental impacts when deciding whether to proceed with a project. The International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA) defines an environmental impact assessment as "the process of identifying, predicting, evaluating and mitigating the biophysical
Biophysics
Biophysics is an interdisciplinary science that uses the methods of physical science to study biological systems. Studies included under the branches of biophysics span all levels of biological organization, from the molecular scale to whole organisms and ecosystems...

, social, and other relevant effects of development proposals prior to major decisions being taken and commitments made." EIAs are unique in that they do not require adherence to a predetermined environmental outcome, but rather they require decision­makers 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.

EIAs began to be used in the 1960s as part of a rational decision making process.
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Encyclopedia
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 natural
Natural environment
The natural environment encompasses all living and non-living things occurring naturally on Earth or some region thereof. It is an environment that encompasses the interaction of all living species....

, social and economic aspects.

The purpose of the assessment is to ensure that decision makers consider the ensuing environmental impacts when deciding whether to proceed with a project. The International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA) defines an environmental impact assessment as "the process of identifying, predicting, evaluating and mitigating the biophysical
Biophysics
Biophysics is an interdisciplinary science that uses the methods of physical science to study biological systems. Studies included under the branches of biophysics span all levels of biological organization, from the molecular scale to whole organisms and ecosystems...

, social, and other relevant effects of development proposals prior to major decisions being taken and commitments made." EIAs are unique in that they do not require adherence to a predetermined environmental outcome, but rather they require decision­makers 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.

EIAs began to be used in the 1960s as part of a rational decision making process. It involved a technical evaluation that would lead to objective decision making. EIA was made legislation in the US in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) 1969. It has since evolved as it has been used increasingly in many countries around the world. As per Jay et al.(2006) , EIA as it is practiced today, is being used as a decision aiding tool rather than decision making tool. There is growing dissent on the use of EIA as its influence on development decisions is limited and there is a view it is falling short of its full potential.There is a need for stronger foundation of EIA practice through training for practitioners, guidance on EIA practice and continuing research.

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. The system boundary refers to ‘the spatial and temporal boundary of the proposal’s effects’. This boundary is determined by the applicant and the lead assessor, but in practice, almost all EIAs address the direct, on-site effects alone.

However, as well as direct effects, developments cause a multitude of indirect effects through consumption of goods and services, production of building materials and machinery, additional land use for activities of various manufacturing and industrial services, mining of resources etc. The indirect effects of developments are often an order of magnitude higher than the direct effects assessed by EIA. Large proposals such as airports or ship yards cause wide ranging national as well as international environmental effects, which should be taken into consideration during the decision-making process.

Broadening the scope of EIA can also benefit threatened species conservation. Instead of concentrating on the direct effects of a proposed project on its local environment some EIAs used a landscape approach which focused on much broader relationships between the entire population of a species in question. As a result, an alternative that would cause least amount of negative effects to the population of that species as a whole, rather than the local subpopulation, can be identified and recommended by EIA.

There are various methods available to carry out EIAs, some are industry specific and some general methods:
  • Industrial products - Product environmental life cycle analysis (LCA) is used for identifying and measuring the impact on the environment of industrial products. These EIAs consider technological activities used for various stages of the product: extraction of raw material for the product and for ancillary materials and equipment, through the production and use of the product, right up to the disposal of the product, the ancillary equipment and material.

  • Genetically modified plants - There are specific methods available to perform EIAs of genetically modified plants. Some of the methods are GMP-RAM, INOVA etc.

  • Fuzzy Arithmetic - EIA methods need specific parameters and variables to be measured to estimate values of impact indicators. However many of the environment impact properties cannot be measured on a scale e.g. landscape quality, lifestyle quality, social acceptance etc. and moreover these indicators are very subjective. Thus to assess the impacts we may need to take the help of information from similar EIAs, expert criteria, sensitivity of affected population etc. To treat this information, which is generally inaccurate, systematically, fuzzy arithmetic and approximate reasoning methods can be utilised. This is called as a fuzzy logic approach.


At the end of the project, an EIA should be followed by an audit. An EIA audit evaluates the performance of an EIA by comparing actual impacts to those that were predicted. The main objective of these audits is to make future EIAs more valid and effective. The two main considerations are:
  • scientific - to check the accuracy of predictions and explain errors.
  • management- to assess the success of mitigation in reducing impacts.


Some people believe that audits be performed as a rigorous scientific testing of the null hypotheses. While some believe in a simpler approach where you compare what actually occurred against the predictions in the EIA document.

After an EIA, the precautionary
Precautionary principle
The precautionary principle or precautionary approach states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those...

 and polluter pays principle
Polluter pays principle
In environmental law, the polluter pays principle is enacted to make the party responsible for producing pollution responsible for paying for the damage done to the natural environment. It is regarded as a regional custom because of the strong support it has received in most Organisation for...

s may be applied to prevent, limit, or require strict liability
Strict liability
In law, strict liability is a standard for liability which may exist in either a criminal or civil context. A rule specifying strict liability makes a person legally responsible for the damage and loss caused by his or her acts and omissions regardless of culpability...

 or insurance
Insurance
In law and economics, insurance is a form of risk management primarily used to hedge against the risk of a contingent, uncertain loss. Insurance is defined as the equitable transfer of the risk of a loss, from one entity to another, in exchange for payment. An insurer is a company selling the...

 coverage to a project, based on its likely harms. Environmental impact assessments are sometimes controversial.

Australia


The history of EIA in Australia could be linked to the enactment of the U.S. National Environment Policy Act
National Environmental Policy Act
The National Environmental Policy Act is a United States environmental law that established a U.S. national policy promoting the enhancement of the environment and also established the President's Council on Environmental Quality ....

 (NEPA) in 1970, which made the preparation of environmental impact statements a requirement. In Australia, one might say that the EIA procedures were introduced at a State Level prior to that of the Commonwealth (Federal), with a majority of the states having divergent views to the Commonwealth. One of the pioneering states was New South Wales, whose State Pollution Control Commission issued EIA guidelines in 1974. At a Commonwealth (Federal) level, this was followed by passing of the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act in 1974. The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC) superseded the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974 and is the current central piece for EIA in Australia on a Commonwealth (Federal) level. An important point to note is that this Commonwealth Act does not affect the validity of the States and Territories environmental and development assessments and approvals; rather the EPBC runs as a parallel to the State/Territory Systems. Overlap between federal and state requirements is addressed via bilateral agreements or one off accredition of state processes, as provided for in the EPBC Act.

The Commonwealth Level


The EPBC Act provides a legal framework to protect and manage nationally and internationally important flora, fauna, ecological communities and heritage places-defined in the EPBC Act as matters of ‘national environmental significance’. Following are the eight matters of ‘national environmental significance’ to which the EPBC ACT applies :
  • World Heritage sites;
  • National Heritage places;
  • RAMSAR wetlands of international significance;
  • Listed threatened species and ecological communities;
  • Migratory species protected under international agreements;
  • The Commonwealth marine environment;
  • Nuclear actions (including uranium mining); and
  • National Heritage.


In addition to this, the EPBC Act aims at providing a streamlined national assessment and approval process for activities. These activities could be by the Commonwealth, or its agents, anywhere in the world or activities on Commonwealth land; and activities that are listed as having a ‘significant impact’ on matters of ‘national environment significance'.

The EPBC Act comes into play when a person (a ‘proponent') wants an action (often called a ‘proposal’ or ‘project’) assessed for environmental impacts under the EPBC Act, he or she must refer the project to the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (Australia). This ‘referral’ is then released to the public, as well as relevant state, territory and Commonwealth ministers, for comment on whether the project is likely to have a significant impact on matters of national environmental significance. The Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts assess the process and makes recommendation to the minister or the delegate for the feasibility. The final discretion on the decision remains of the minister, which is not solely based on matters of ‘national environmental significance’ but also the consideration of social and economic impact of the project.

The Australian Government environment minister cannot intervene in a proposal if it has no significant impact on one of the eight matters of ‘national environmental significance’ despite the fact that there may be other undesirable environmental impacts. This is primarily due to the division of powers between the States and the Federal government and due to which the Australian Government environment minister cannot overturn a state decision.

There are strict civil and criminal penalties for the breach of EPBC Act. Depending on the kind of breach, civil penalty (maximum) may go up to $550,000 for an individual and $5.5 million for a body corporate, or for criminal penalty (maximum) of seven years imprisonment and/or penalty of $46,200.
Australian Capital Territory (ACT)

EIA in ACT is administered with the help of Part 4 of the Land (Planning and Environment) Act 1991 (Land Act) and Territory Plan (plan for land-use).
New South Wales (NSW)

In New South Wales, the Environment Planning Assessment Act 1979 (EPA) establishes three pathways for EIA. The first is under Part 3A of the Act where Major Projects require an environmental assessment. The second is under Part 4 of the Act dealing with development control. If a project does not require approval under Part 3A or Part 4 it is then potentially captured by the third pathway, Part 5 dealing with environment impact assessment.
Northern Territory (NT)

The EIA process in Northern Territory is chiefly administered under the Environmental Assessment Act (EEA). Although EEA is the primary tool for EIA in Northern Territory, there are further provisions for proposals in the Inquiries Act 1985 (NT).
Queensland (QLD)

There are four main EIA processes in Queensland. Firstly, under the Integrated Planning Act 1997 (IPA) for development projects other than mining. Secondly, under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (EP Act) for some mining and petroleum activities. Thirdly, under the State Development and Public Works Organization Act 1971 (State Development Act) for ‘significant projects’. Finally, Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) for ‘controlled actions’.
South Australia (SA)

The local governing tool for EIA in South Australia is the Development Act 1993. There are three levels of assessment possible under the Act in the form of an environment impact statement (EIS), a public environmental report (PER) or a Development Report (DR).
Tasmania (TAS)

In Tasmania, an integrated system of legislation is used to govern development and approval process, this system is a mixture of the Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act 1994 (EMPCA), Land Use Planning and Approvals Act 1993 (LUPAA), State Policies and Projects Act 1993 (SPPA), and Resource Management and Planning Appeals Tribunal Act 1993.
Victoria (VIC)

The EIA process in Victoria is intertwined with the Environment Effects Act 1978 and the Ministerial Guidelines for Assessment of Environmental Effects (made under the s. 10 of the EE Act).
Western Australia (WA)

The Environmental Protection Act 1986 (Part 4) provides the legislative framework for the EIA process in Western Australia. The EPA Act oversees the planning and development proposals and assesses their likely impacts on the environment.

Canada



The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) is the legal basis for the federal environmental assessment (EA) process. CEAA came into force in 1995. Legislative amendments were introduced in 2001 and came into force on October 30, 2003. EA is defined as a planning tool to identify, understand, assess and mitigate, where possible, the environmental effects of a project. Under the CEAA, all federal government departments and agencies are required to undertake an EA for projects relating to a physical work and for any proposed physical activity listed in the Inclusion List Regulations where it exercises one or more of the following CEAA triggers:
  • Proposes or undertakes a project
  • Grants money or any other form of financial assistance to a project
  • Grants an interest in the land to enable a project to be carried out
  • Exercises a regulatory duty in relation to a project, such as issuing a permit or license that is included in the Law List Regulations.


If a federal government department or agency exercises one or more of the above-mentioned triggers, it becomes a Responsible Authority (RA) under CEAA. As an RA, the federal department or agency in question must ensure that an EA is carried out in accordance with the CEAA and must consider the EA findings before a decision is made that could allow the project to proceed.

China


The Environmental Impact Assessment Law (EIA Law) requires an environmental impact assessment to be completed prior to project construction. However, if a developer completely ignores this requirement and builds a project without submitting an environmental impact statement, the only penalty is that the environmental protection bureau (EPB) may require the developer to do a make-up environmental assessment. If the developer does not complete this make-up assessment within the designated time, only then is the EPB authorized to fine the developer. Even so, the possible fine is capped at a maximum of about US$25,000, a fraction of the overall cost of most major projects. The lack of more stringent enforcement mechanisms has resulted in a significant percentage of projects not completing legally required environmental impact assessments prior to construction.

China's State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) used the legislation to halt 30 projects in 2004, including three hydro-power plants under the Three Gorges Project Company. Although one month later (Note as a point of reference, that the typical EIA for a major project in the USA takes one to two years.), most of the 30 halted projects resumed their construction, reportedly having passed the environmental assessment, the fact that these key projects' construction was ever suspended was notable.

A joint investigation by SEPA and the Ministry of Land and Resources in 2004 showed that 30-40% of the mining construction projects went through the procedure of environment impact assessment as required, while in some areas only 6-7% did so. This partly explains why China has witnessed so many mining accidents in recent years.

SEPA alone cannot guarantee the full enforcement of environmental laws and regulations, observed Professor Wang Canfa
Wang Canfa
Wang Canfa is a Chinese professor at the China University of Political Science and Law, and the founder and director of the Beijing-based Center for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims ....

, director of the centre to help environmental victims at China University of Political Science and Law
China University of Political Science and Law
China University of Political Science and Law is a university in Beijing, People's Republic of China. Its law school is considered one of the best in China. In 2009, The Ministry of Education ranked CUPL 2nd among top law schools in China. CUPL has two campuses, one in Haidian, which is the...

. In fact, according to Wang, the rate of China's environmental laws and regulations that are actually enforced is estimated to be barely 10%.

Egypt


Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
EIA is implemented in Egypt under the umbrella of the Ministry of state for environmental affairs. The Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA) is responsible for the EIA services.

In June 1997, the responsibility of Egypt's first full time Minister of State for Environmental Affairs was assigned as stated in the Presidential Decree no.275/1997. From thereon, the new ministry has focused, in close collaboration with the national and international development partners, on defining environmental policies, setting priorities and implementing initiatives within a context of sustainable development.

According to the Law 4/1994 for the Protection of the Environment, the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA) was restructured with the new mandate to substitute the institution initially established in 1982. At the central level, EEAA represents the executive arm of the Ministry.

The purpose of EIA is to ensure the protection and conservation of the environment and natural resources including human health aspects against uncontrolled development. The long-term objective is to ensure a sustainable economic development that meets present needs without compromising future generations ability to meet their own needs. EIA is an important tool in the integrated environmental management approach.

EIA must be performed for new establishments or projects and for expansions or renovations of existing establishments according to the Law for the Environment.

EU


The European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

 has established a mix of mandatory and discretionary procedures to assess environmental impacts. European Union Directive
European Union directive
A directive is a legislative act of the European Union, which requires member states to achieve a particular result without dictating the means of achieving that result. It can be distinguished from regulations which are self-executing and do not require any implementing measures. Directives...

 (85/337/EEC) on Environmental Impact Assessments (known as the EIA Directive) was first introduced in 1985 and was amended in 1997. The directive was amended again in 2003, following EU signature of the 1998 Aarhus Convention
Aarhus Convention
The UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, usually known as the Aarhus Convention, was signed on June 25, 1998 in the Danish city of Aarhus. It entered into force on 30 October 2001...

. In 2001, the issue was enlarged to the assessment of plans and programmes by the so called Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)
Strategic Environmental Assessment
Strategic environmental assessment is a system of incorporating environmental considerations into policies, plans, and programmes. It is sometimes referred to as strategic environmental impact assessment. The specific term strategic environmental assessment relates to European Union policy...

 Directive (2001/42/EC), which is now in force.
Under the EU directive, an EIA must provide certain information to comply. There are seven key areas that are required:
  1. Description of the project
    • Description of actual project and site description
    • Break the project down into its key components, i.e. construction, operations, decommissioning
    • For each component list all of the sources of environmental disturbance
    • For each component all the inputs and outputs must be listed, e.g., air pollution
      Air pollution
      Air pollution is the introduction of chemicals, particulate matter, or biological materials that cause harm or discomfort to humans or other living organisms, or cause damage to the natural environment or built environment, into the atmosphere....

      , noise, hydrology
      Hydrology
      Hydrology is the study of the movement, distribution, and quality of water on Earth and other planets, including the hydrologic cycle, water resources and environmental watershed sustainability...

  2. Alternatives that have been considered
    • Examine alternatives that have been considered
    • Example: in a biomass
      Biomass
      Biomass, as a renewable energy source, is biological material from living, or recently living organisms. As an energy source, biomass can either be used directly, or converted into other energy products such as biofuel....

       power station, will the fuel be sourced locally or nationally?
  3. Description of the environment
    • List of all aspects of the environment that may be affected by the development
    • Example: populations, fauna
      Fauna
      Fauna or faunæ is all of the animal life of any particular region or time. The corresponding term for plants is flora.Zoologists and paleontologists use fauna to refer to a typical collection of animals found in a specific time or place, e.g. the "Sonoran Desert fauna" or the "Burgess shale fauna"...

      , flora, air, soil, water, humans, landscape, cultural heritage
    • This section is best carried out with the help of local experts, e.g. the RSPB in the UK
  4. Description of the significant effects on the environment
    • The word significant is crucial here as the definition can vary
    • 'Significant' needs to be defined
    • The most frequent method used here is use of the Leopold matrix
      Leopold matrix
      The Leopold matrix is a qualitative environmental impact assessment method pioneered in 1971. It is used to identify the potential impact of a project on the environment. The system consists of a matrix with columns representing the various activities of the project, and rows representing the...

    • The matrix is a tool used in the systematic examination of potential interactions
    • Example: in a windfarm development a significant impact may be collisions with birds
  5. Mitigation
    • This is where EIA is most useful
    • Once section 4 has been completed it will be obvious where the impacts will be greatest
    • Using this information ways to avoid negative impacts should be developed
    • Best working with the developer with this section as they know the project best
    • Using the windfarm example again construction could be out of bird nesting seasons
  6. Non-technical summary (EIS)
    • The EIA will be in the public domain and be used in the decision making process
    • It is important that the information is available to the public
    • This section is a summary that does not include jargon or complicated diagrams
    • It should be understood by the informed lay-person
  7. Lack of know-how/technical difficulties
    • This section is to advise any areas of weakness in knowledge
    • It can be used to focus areas of future research
    • Some developers see the EIA as a starting block for poor environmental management

The Netherlands


EIA was implemented in Dutch legislation on September 1, 1987. The categories of projects that require an EIA are summarised in Dutch legislation, the Wet milieubeheer. The use of thresholds for activities makes sure that EIA is obligatory for those activities that may have considerable impacts on the environment.

For projects and plans that fit these criteria, a EIA report is required. The EIA report defines a.o. the proposed initiative, it makes clear the impact of that initiative on the environment and compares this with the impact of possible alternatives with less a negative impact.

Hong Kong


EIA in Hong Kong, since 1998, is regulated by the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance 1997.

The original proposal to construct the Lok Ma Chau Spur Line
Lok Ma Chau Spur line
The Lok Ma Chau Spur Line is the second railway link between Hong Kong and Mainland China, relieving passenger congestion at Lo Wu Station. The alignment branches off the existing MTR East Rail Line north of Sheung Shui Station and then runs to the Lok Ma Chau Station where customs and...

 overground across the Long Valley
Long Valley
Long Valley may refer to:*Long Valley Caldera in California*Long Valley, Lassen County, California*Long Valley, California, former name of Greenwood, El Dorado County, California*Long Valley, Hong Kong*Long Valley, New Jersey*Long Valley, Arizona...

 failed to get through EIA, and the KCR Corporation had to change its plan and build the railway underground. In April 2011, the EIA of the Hong Kong section of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge
Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge
The in-construction Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge is a series of bridges and tunnels that will connect the west side of Hong Kong to Macau and the Guangdong province city of Zhuhai, which are situated on the west side of the Pearl River Delta. The proposed link is expected to cost US$10.7 billion....

 was found to have breached the ordinance, and was declared unlawful. The appeal by the government was allowed in September 2011. However, it was estimated that this EIA court case had increased the construction cost of the Hong Kong section of the bridge by HK$6.5 billion in money-of-the-day prices.

India


The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) of India have been in a great effort in Environmental Impact Assessment in India. The main laws in nation are Water Act(1974), The Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act (1972)
Wildlife Protection Act of 1972
The Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 refers to a sweeping package of legislation enacted in 1972 by the Government of India. Before 1972, India only had five designated national parks...

, The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act (1981) and The Environment (Protection) Act (1986). The responsible body for this is Central Pollution Control Board.
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) studies need a significant amount of primary and secondary environmental data. The primary data are those which need to be collected in the field to define the status of environment (like air quality data, water quality data etc.). The secondary data are those data which have been collected over the years and can be used to understand the existing environmental scenario of the study area. The environmental impact assessment (EIA) studies are conducted over a short period of time and therefore the understanding the environmental trends based on few months of primary data has its own limitations. Ideally, the primary data has to be considered along with the secondary data for complete understanding of the existing environmental status of the area. In many EIA studies, the secondary data needs could be as high as 80% of the total data requirement. EIC is the repository of one stop secondary data source for environmental impact assessment in India.

The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) experience in India indicates that the lack of timely availability of reliable and authentic environmental data has been a major bottle neck in achieving the full benefits of EIA. The environment being a multi-disciplinary subject, a multitude of agencies is involved in collection of environmental data. However, there is no single organization in India which tracks the data available amongst these agencies and makes it available in one place, in a form and manner required by practitioners in the field of environmental impact assessment in India. Further, the environmental data is not available in value added forms that can enhance the quality of the EIA. This in turn adversely affects the time and efforts required for conducting the environmental impact assessments (EIAs) by project proponents and also timely environmental clearances by the regulators. With this background, Environmental Information Centre (EIC) has been set up to serve as a professionally managed clearing house of environmental information that can be used by MoEF, project proponents, consultants, NGOs and other stakeholders involved in the process of environmental impact assessment in India. EIC caters to the need of creating and disseminating of organized environmental data for various developmental initiatives all over the country.

EIC stores data in GIS format and makes it available to all environmental impact assessment studies and to EIA stakeholders in a cost effective and timely manner.

Malaysia


In Malaysia, Section 34A, Environmental Quality Act, 1974 requires developments that have significant impact to the environment are required to conduct the Environmental impact assessment.

Nepal


In Nepal, EIA has been integrated in major development projects since the early 1980s. In the planning history ofNepal, the sixth plan (1980–85), for the first time, recognized the need for EIA with the establishment of Environmental Impact Study Project (EISP) under the Department of Soil Conservation in 1982 to develop necessary instruments for integration of EIA in infrastructure
development projects. However, the government of Nepal enunciated environment conservation related
policies in the seventh plan (NPC, 1985–1990). In order to enforce this policy and make necessary arrangements, a series of guidelines were developed, thereby incorporating the elements of environmental factors right from the project formulation stage of the development plans
and projects and to avoid or minimize adverse effects on the ecological system. In addition, it has also emphasized that EIAs of industry, tourism, water resources, transportation, urbanization, agriculture, forest and other developmental projects be conducted.

In Nepal, the government’s Environmental Impact Assessment Guideline of 1993 inspired the enactment of the Environment Protection Act (EPA) of 1997 and the Environment Protection Rules (EPR) of 1997(EPA and EPR have been enforced since 24 and 26 June 1997 respectively in Nepal) to internalizing the environmental assessment system. The process institutionalized the EIA process in development proposals and enactment, which makes the integration of IEE and EIA legally binding to the prescribed projects. The projects, requiring EIA or IEE, are included in Schedules 1 and 2 of the EPR, 1997
(GoN/MoLJPA 1997).
Progresses were made in the Environmental protection issue during the 8th five year plan (1992–1997). The following development in Environmental protection were achieved during that time:
  • Formulation of Environmental Protection Act 1997
  • Establishment of Ministry of Environment
  • Development of National Environmental Policies and Action Plan, EIA guidelines developed
  • Consideration of environmental concerns in hydropower projects
  • Development of industrial, irrigation and agricultural policies that undertook environmental concerns


Source: Bhatta R. and Khanal S. 2010.African Journal of Environmental Science and Technology Vol. 4(9), pp. 586–594

New Zealand


In New Zealand, EIA is usually referred to as Assessment of Environmental Effects (AEE). The first use of EIA's dates back to a Cabinet minute passed in 1974 called Environmental Protection and Enhancement Procedures. This had no legal force and only related to the activities of government departments. When the Resource Management Act
Resource Management Act
The Resource Management Act passed in 1991 in New Zealand is a significant, and at times, controversial Act of Parliament. The RMA promotes the sustainable management of natural and physical resources such as land, air and water...

 was passed in 1991, an EIA was required as part of a resource consent application. Section 88 of the Act specifies that the AEE must include "such detail as corresponds with the scale and significance of the effects that the activity may have on the environment". While there is no duty to consult any person when making a resource consent application (Sections 36A and Schedule 4), proof of consultation is almost certain to be required by local councils when making a decision about whether or not to publicly notifiy the consent application under Section 93.

Russian Federation


Russia holds the world's largest natural gas reserves, the second largest coal reserves, and the eighth largest oil reserves. Russia is also the world's largest exporter of natural gas, the second largest oil exporter and the third largest energy consumer.

As of 2004, the state authority responsible for conducting the State EIA in Russia has been split between two Federal bodies: 1) Federal service for monitoring the use of natural resources – a part of the Russian Ministry for Natural Resources and Environment and 2) Federal Service for Ecological, Technological and Nuclear Control . The two main pieces of environmental legislation in Russia are: The Federal Law ‘On Ecological Expertise, 1995 and the ‘Regulations on Assessment of Impact from Intended Business and Other Activity on Environment in the Russian Federation, 2000.

Federal Service for monitoring the use of natural resources


In 2006, the parliament committee on ecology in conjunction with the Ministry for Natural Resources and Environment, created a working group to prepare a number of amendments to existing legislation in order to cover such topics as stringent project documentation for building of potentially environmentally damaging objects as well as building of projects on the territory of protected areas.
There has been some success in this area, as evidenced from abandonment of plans to construct a gas pipe-line through the only remaining habitat of the critically endangered Amur leopard in the Russian Far East.

Federal Service for Ecological, Technological and Nuclear Control


The government’s decision to hand over control over several important procedures, including state EIA in the field of all types of energy projects, to the Federal Service for Ecological, Technological and Nuclear Control had caused a major controversy and criticism from environmental groups that blamed the government for giving nuclear power industry control over the state EIA.

Not surprisingly the main problem concerning State EIA in Russia is the clear differentiation of jurisdiction between the two above-mentioned Federal bodies.

Sri Lanka


Environmental Impact Assessments

One popular approach to assist in smart growth in democratic countries is for law-makers to require prospective developers to prepare environmental impact assessments of their plans as a condition for state and/or local governments to go for Environmental Impact Assessments

These reports often indicate how significant impacts generated by the development will be mitigated - the cost of which is usually paid by the developer. These assessments are frequently controversial. Conservationists, neighborhood advocacy groups and NIMBYs are often skeptical about such impact reports, even when they are prepared by independent agencies and subsequently approved by the decision makers rather than the promoters. Conversely, developers will sometimes strongly resist being required to implement the mitigation measures required by the local government as they may be quite costly.

These assessments are frequently controversial. Conservationists, neighborhood advocacy groups and NIMBYs are often skeptical about such impact reports, even when they are prepared by independent agencies and subsequently approved by the decision makers rather than the promoters. Conversely, developers will sometimes strongly resist being required to implement the mitigation measures required by the local government as they may be quite costly.

The importance of the Environmental Impact Assessment as an effective tool for the purpose of integrating environmental considerations with development planning is highly recognized in Sri Lanka. The application of this technique is considered as a means of ensuring that the likely effects of new development projects on the environment are fully understood and taken into account before development is allowed to proceed. The importance of this management tool to foresee potential environmental impacts and problems caused by proposed projects and its use as a mean to make project more suitable to the environment are highly appreciated.

United States



Under United States environmental law an Environmental Assessment (EA) is compiled to determine the need for an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), and originated in the National Environmental Policy Act
National Environmental Policy Act
The National Environmental Policy Act is a United States environmental law that established a U.S. national policy promoting the enhancement of the environment and also established the President's Council on Environmental Quality ....

 (NEPA), enacted in 1969. Certain actions of federal
Federal government of the United States
The federal government of the United States is the national government of the constitutional republic of fifty states that is the United States of America. The federal government comprises three distinct branches of government: a legislative, an executive and a judiciary. These branches and...

 agencies
Government agency
A government or state agency is a permanent or semi-permanent organization in the machinery of government that is responsible for the oversight and administration of specific functions, such as an intelligence agency. There is a notable variety of agency types...

 must be preceded by an EA or EIS. Contrary to a widespread misconception, NEPA does not prohibit the federal government or its licensees/permittees from harming the environment, nor does it specify any penalty if the EA or EIS turns out to be inaccurate, intentionally or otherwise. NEPA requires that plausible statements as to the prospective impacts be disclosed in advance. The purpose of NEPA process is to ensure that the decision maker is fully informed of the environmental aspects and consequences prior to making the final decision.

An Environmental Assessment (EA) is an environmental analysis prepared pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act to determine whether a federal action would significantly affect the environment and thus require a more detailed Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The release of an Environmental Assessment results in either a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) or an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

The Environmental Assessment is a concise public document prepared by the federal action agency that serves to:
  1. briefly provide sufficient evidence and analysis for determining whether to prepare an EIS or a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI)
  2. Demonstrate compliance with the act when no EIS is required
  3. facilitate the preparation of a EIS when a FONSI cannot be demonstrated


The Environmental Assessment includes a brief discussion of the purpose and need of the proposal and of its alternatives as required by CFR 102(2)(E), of the environmental impacts of the proposed actions and alternatives, as well as a listing of agencies and stakeholders consulted. The action agency must approve an EA before it is made available to the public. The EA is made public through notices of availability by local, state, or regional clearing houses, newspapers, etc.

There is a 15-30 day review period required for an Environmental Assessment, while the document is made available for public commentary.

An agency will release either a Draft Environmental Assessment (Draft EA) or a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for comment. Interested parties and the general public have the opportunity to comment on the draft, after which the agency will address all comments received and prepare a decision document, either a FONSI, Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare a EIS or a Record of Decision for an EIS. The agency will then approve the " Final Environmental Assessment" (Final EA) or Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). Commenting on the Draft EA is typically done in writing or email, submitted to the lead agency as defined in the Notice of Availability. Draft EIS's require public hearings, so comments can be made in person, as well as in writing. Occasionally, the agency will later release a "Supplemental Environmental Assessment " (Supplemental EA) or a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS), if the project parameters or environmental conditions change substantially after the issuance of the FONSI or ROD.

The adequacy of an EIS can be challenged in federal court
United States federal courts
The United States federal courts make up the judiciary branch of federal government of the United States organized under the United States Constitution and laws of the federal government.-Categories:...

. Major proposed projects have been blocked because of an agency's failure to prepare an acceptable EIS. One prominent example was the Westway landfill and highway development in and along the Hudson River
Hudson River
The Hudson is a river that flows from north to south through eastern New York. The highest official source is at Lake Tear of the Clouds, on the slopes of Mount Marcy in the Adirondack Mountains. The river itself officially begins in Henderson Lake in Newcomb, New York...

 in New York City. Another prominent case involved the Sierra Club suing the Nevada Department of Transportation
Nevada Department of Transportation
The Nevada Department of Transportation is a government agency in the U.S. state of Nevada. NDOT is responsible for maintaining and improving Nevada's highway system, which includes U.S. highways and Interstate highways within the state's boundaries. The department is notable for its...

 over its denial of Sierra Club's request to issue a supplemental EIS addressing air emissions of particulate matter and hazardous air pollutants in the case of widening US Highway 95 through Las Vegas. The case reached the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is a U.S. federal court with appellate jurisdiction over the district courts in the following districts:* District of Alaska* District of Arizona...

, which led to construction on the highway being halted until the court's final decision. The case was settled prior to the court's final decision.

Several state governments
State governments of the United States
State governments in the United States are those republics formed by citizens in the jurisdiction thereof as provided by the United States Constitution; with the original 13 States forming the first Articles of Confederation, and later the aforementioned Constitution. Within the U.S...

 that have adopted "little NEPAs," state law
State law
In the United States, state law is the law of each separate U.S. state, as passed by the state legislature and adjudicated by state courts. It exists in parallel, and sometimes in conflict with, United States federal law. These disputes are often resolved by the federal courts.-See also:*List of U.S...

s imposing EIS requirements for particular state actions. Some those state laws such as the California Environmental Quality Act
California Environmental Quality Act
The California Environmental Quality Act is a California statute passed in 1970, shortly after the United States federal government passed the National Environmental Policy Act , to institute a statewide policy of environmental protection...

 refer to the required environmental impact studies as environmental impact reports.

The structure of a generic Environmental Assessment is as follows:
  1. Summary
  2. Introduction
    • Structure
    • Background
    • Purpose and Need for Action
    • Proposed Action
    • Decision Framework
    • Public Involvement
    • Issues
  3. Alternatives, including the Proposed Action
    • Alternatives
    • Mitigation Common to All Alternatives
    • Comparison of Alternatives
  4. Environmental Consequences
  5. Consultation and Coordination


These variety of state requirements are yielding voluminous data not just upon impacts of individual projects, but also to elucidate scientific areas that had not been sufficiently researched. For example, in a seemingly routine Environmental Impact Report for the city of Monterey, California
Monterey, California
The City of Monterey in Monterey County is located on Monterey Bay along the Pacific coast in Central California. Monterey lies at an elevation of 26 feet above sea level. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 27,810. Monterey is of historical importance because it was the capital of...

, information came to light that led to the official federal endangered species listing of Hickman's potentilla
Hickman's potentilla
Potentilla hickmanii is an endangered perennial herb of the rose family. This rare plant species is found in a narrowly restricted range in two locations in coastal northern California, in Monterey County, and in very small colonies in San Mateo County...

, a rare coastal wildflower
Wildflower
A wildflower is a flower that grows wild, meaning it was not intentionally seeded or planted. Yet "wildflower" meadows of a few mixed species are sold in seed packets. The term "wildflower" has been made vague by commercial seedsmen who are interested in selling more flowers or seeds more...

.

Transboundary application


Environmental threats do not respect national borders. International pollution can have detrimental effects on the atmosphere, oceans, rivers, aquifer
Aquifer
An aquifer is a wet underground layer of water-bearing permeable rock or unconsolidated materials from which groundwater can be usefully extracted using a water well. The study of water flow in aquifers and the characterization of aquifers is called hydrogeology...

s, farmland, the weather and biodiversity. Global climate change is transnational. Specific pollution threats include acid rain
Acid rain
Acid rain is a rain or any other form of precipitation that is unusually acidic, meaning that it possesses elevated levels of hydrogen ions . It can have harmful effects on plants, aquatic animals, and infrastructure. Acid rain is caused by emissions of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen...

, radioactive contamination
Radioactive contamination
Radioactive contamination, also called radiological contamination, is radioactive substances on surfaces, or within solids, liquids or gases , where their presence is unintended or undesirable, or the process giving rise to their presence in such places...

, debris in outer space
Space debris
Space debris, also known as orbital debris, space junk, and space waste, is the collection of objects in orbit around Earth that were created by humans but no longer serve any useful purpose. These objects consist of everything from spent rocket stages and defunct satellites to erosion, explosion...

, stratospheric
Stratosphere
The stratosphere is the second major layer of Earth's atmosphere, just above the troposphere, and below the mesosphere. It is stratified in temperature, with warmer layers higher up and cooler layers farther down. This is in contrast to the troposphere near the Earth's surface, which is cooler...

 ozone depletion
Ozone depletion
Ozone depletion describes two distinct but related phenomena observed since the late 1970s: a steady decline of about 4% per decade in the total volume of ozone in Earth's stratosphere , and a much larger springtime decrease in stratospheric ozone over Earth's polar regions. The latter phenomenon...

 and toxic oil spill
Oil spill
An oil spill is the release of a liquid petroleum hydrocarbon into the environment, especially marine areas, due to human activity, and is a form of pollution. The term is mostly used to describe marine oil spills, where oil is released into the ocean or coastal waters...

s. The Chernobyl disaster
Chernobyl disaster
The Chernobyl disaster was a nuclear accident that occurred on 26 April 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine , which was under the direct jurisdiction of the central authorities in Moscow...

, precipitated by a nuclear accident
Nuclear and radiation accidents
A nuclear and radiation accident is defined by the International Atomic Energy Agency as "an event that has led to significant consequences to people, the environment or the facility...

 on April 26, 1986, is a stark reminder of the devastating effects of transboundary nuclear pollution.

Environmental protection is inherently a cross-border issue and has led to the creation of transnational regulation via multilateral and bilateral treaties. The United Nations Conference on the Human Environment
United Nations Conference on the Human Environment
The United Nations Conference on the Human Environment was an international conference convened under United Nations auspices held in Stockholm, Sweden from June 5–16, 1972...

 (UNCHE or Stockholm Conference) held in Stockholm
Stockholm
Stockholm is the capital and the largest city of Sweden and constitutes the most populated urban area in Scandinavia. Stockholm is the most populous city in Sweden, with a population of 851,155 in the municipality , 1.37 million in the urban area , and around 2.1 million in the metropolitan area...

 in 1972 and the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development
Earth Summit
The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development , also known as the Rio Summit, Rio Conference, Earth Summit was a major United Nations conference held in Rio de Janeiro from 3 June to 14 June 1992.-Overview:...

 (UNCED or Rio Summit, Rio Conference, or Earth Summit) held in Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro , commonly referred to simply as Rio, is the capital city of the State of Rio de Janeiro, the second largest city of Brazil, and the third largest metropolitan area and agglomeration in South America, boasting approximately 6.3 million people within the city proper, making it the 6th...

 in 1992 were key in the creation of about 1,000 international instruments that include at least some provisions related to the environment and its protection.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe's
United Nations Economic Commission for Europe
The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe was established in 1947 to encourage economic cooperation among its member states. It is one of five regional commissions under the administrative direction of United Nations headquarters. It has 56 member states, and reports to the UN Economic and...

 Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context
Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context
The Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context is a United Nations Economic Commission for Europe convention signed in Espoo, Finland, in 1991 that entered into force in 1997...

 was negotiated to provide an international legal framework for transboundary EIA.

However, as there is no universal legislature or administration with a comprehensive mandate, most international treaties exist parallel to one another and are further developed without the benefit of consideration being given to potential conflicts with other agreements. There is also the issue of international enforcement.
This has led to duplications and failures, in part due to an inability to enforce agreements. An example is the failure of many international fisheries regimes to restrict harvesting practises.

Annexed projects


All projects are either classified as Annex 1 or Annex 2 projects. Those lying in Annex 1 are large scale developments such as motorways, chemical works, bridges, powerstations etc. These always require an EIA under the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive (85,337,EEC). Annex 2 projects are smaller in scale such as small installments, and maintenance works. These do not require an EIA

See also


  • Environmental good
    Environmental good
    Environmental goods are a sub-category of public goods which includes:* Clean air* Clean water* Landscape* Scenic towns* Green transport infrastructure * A diverse flora* A diverse fauna* Public parks...

  • Environmental impact design
    Environmental impact design
    The theory and practice of Environmental impact assessment developed from the appreciation that development projects can have negative impacts - externalities which harm the environment...

  • Environmental impact statement
    Environmental impact statement
    An environmental impact statement , under United States environmental law, is a document required by the National Environmental Policy Act for certain actions "significantly affecting the quality of the human environment". An EIS is a tool for decision making...

  • Environmental indicator
    Environmental indicator
    Environmental indicators are simple measures that tell us what is happening in the environment. Since the environment is very complex, indicators provide a more practical and economical way to track the state of the environment than if we attempted to record every possible variable in the environment...

  • Equator Principles
    Equator Principles
    The Equator Principles are a voluntary set of standards for determining, assessing and managing social and environmental risk in project financing....

  • Healthy development measurement tool
    Healthy development measurement tool
    The Healthy Development Measurement Tool , developed by the San Francisco Department of Public Health, provides an approach for evaluating land use planning and urban development with regards to the achievement of human health needs...

  • Leopold matrix
    Leopold matrix
    The Leopold matrix is a qualitative environmental impact assessment method pioneered in 1971. It is used to identify the potential impact of a project on the environment. The system consists of a matrix with columns representing the various activities of the project, and rows representing the...

  • List of international environmental agreements
  • Natural landscape
    Natural landscape
    A natural landscape is a landscape that is unaffected by human activity. A natural landscape is intact when all living and nonliving elements are free to move and change. The nonliving elements distinguish a natural landscape from a wilderness. A wilderness includes areas within which natural...

  • Phase I Environmental Site Assessment
    Phase I Environmental Site Assessment
    In the United States, an environmental site assessment is a report prepared for a real estate holding which identifies potential or existing environmental contamination liabilities. The analysis, often called an ESA, typically addresses both the underlying land as well as physical improvements to...

  • Social Impact Assessment
    Social impact assessment
    Social impact assessment is a methodology to review the social effects of infrastructure projects and other development interventions.-Definition:...

  • Strategic Environmental Assessment
    Strategic Environmental Assessment
    Strategic environmental assessment is a system of incorporating environmental considerations into policies, plans, and programmes. It is sometimes referred to as strategic environmental impact assessment. The specific term strategic environmental assessment relates to European Union policy...

  • United Nations Environment Programme
    United Nations Environment Programme
    The United Nations Environment Programme coordinates United Nations environmental activities, assisting developing countries in implementing environmentally sound policies and practices. It was founded as a result of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in June 1972 and has its...

  • Sustainability appraisal
    Sustainability Appraisal
    In United Kingdom planning law, a sustainability appraisal is an appraisal of the economic, environmental, and social effects of a plan from the outset of the preparation process to allow decisions to be made that accord with sustainable development....


Further reading

  • Petts, J. (ed), Handbook of Environmental Impact Assessment Vol 1 & 2, Blackwell, Oxford ISBN 0-632-04772-0
  • Environmental Impact Assessment Review (1980 - ), Elsevier
    Elsevier
    Elsevier is a publishing company which publishes medical and scientific literature. It is a part of the Reed Elsevier group. Based in Amsterdam, the company has operations in the United Kingdom, USA and elsewhere....

  • Glasson, J; Therivel, R; Chadwick A, Introduction to Environmental Impact Assessment, (2005) Routledge, London
  • Carroll, B. and Turpin T. Environmental impact assessment handbook, second edition (2009) Thomas Telford Ltd, ISBN 978-0-7277-3509-6
  • Hanna, k; Environmental Impact Assessment: Practice and Participation" (2009)Second edition, Oxford
  • Impact Assessment: Unintended Consequences of Green Technologies A University of California, Berkeley overview of unintended impacts of green energy technologies and practices

External links