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The EIA Process
The EIA Process

The EIA Process

The EIA process makes sure that environmental issues are raised when a project or plan is first discussed and that all concerns are addressed as a project gains momentum through to implementation. Recommendations made by the EIA may necessitate the redesign of some project components, require further studies, and suggest changes which alter the economic viability of the project or cause a delay in project implementation. To be of most benefit it is essential that an environmental assessment is carried out to determine significant impacts early in the project cycle so that recommendations can be built into the design and cost-benefit analysis without causing major delays or increased design costs. To be effective once implementation has commenced, the EIA should lead to a mechanism whereby adequate monitoring is undertaken to realize environmental management. An important output from the EIA process should be the delineation of enabling mechanisms for such effective management.

The way in which an EIA is carried out is not rigid: it is a process comprising a series of steps as listed below:

  • Screening
  • Scoping
  • Prediction and Mitigation
  • Management and Monitoring
  • Audit


Screening:

Screening is the process of deciding on whether an EIA is required, Screening often results in a categorization of the project and from this a decision is made on whether or not a full EIA is to be carried out.


Scoping:

Scoping occurs early in the project cycle at the same time as outline planning and pre-feasibility studies. Scoping is the process of identifying the key environmental issues and is perhaps the most important step in an EIA. Several groups, particularly decision makers, the local population and the scientific community, have an interest in helping to deliberate the issues which should be considered, and scoping is designed to canvass their views, (Wathern 1988).

Prediction and mitigation:

Detailed prediction and mitigation studies follow scoping and are carried out in parallel with feasibility studies. The main output report is called an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), and contains a detailed plan for managing and monitoring environmental impacts both during and after implementation.

Management and monitoring:

The part of the EIS covering monitoring and management is often referred to as the Environmental Action Plan or Environmental Management Plan. This section not only sets out the mitigation measures needed for environmental management, both in the short and long term, but also the institutional requirements for implementation.

The purpose of monitoring is to compare predicted and actual impacts, particularly if the impacts are either very important or the scale of the impact cannot be very accurately predicted. The results of monitoring can be used to manage the environment, particularly to highlight problems early so that action can be taken.

Auditing:       

In order to capitalize on the experience and knowledge gained, the last stage of an EIA is to carry out an Environmental Audit sometime after completion of the project or implementation of a programme. It will therefore usually be done by a separate team of specialists to that working on the bulk of the EIA. The audit should include an analysis of the technical, procedural and decision-making aspects of the EIA. Technical aspects include: the adequacy of the baseline studies, the accuracy of predictions and the suitability of mitigation measures. Procedural aspects include: the efficiency of the procedure, the fairness of the public involvement measures and the degree of coordination of roles and responsibilities. Decision-making aspects include: the utility of the process for decision making and the implications for development, (adapted from Sadler in Wathern, 1988). The audit will determine whether recommendations and requirements made by the earlier EIA steps were incorporated successfully into project implementation.

Public participation:

Projects or programmes have significant impacts on the local population. Whilst the aim is to improve the wellbeing of the population, a lack of understanding of the people and their society may result in development that has considerable negative consequences. The EIA provides an ideal forum for checking that the affected public has been adequately consulted and their views taken into account in project preparation.


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