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ENVIRONMENTAL

IMPACT

ASSESSMENT

UNIT 1
ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT – UNIT 1

INTRODUCTION TO ENVIROMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT


EIA is now increasingly being seen and used within the wider context of serving
'sustainable development' objectives. This role was highlighted at the United Nations
Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in 1992 where Principle 17 of
the Rio Declaration, and to which Tanzania is a signatory, states:

"Environmental impact assessment, as a national instrument, shall be undertaken for


proposed activities that are likely to have a significant adverse impact on the environment
and are subject to a decision of a competent national authority".

Environmental impact assessment (EIA) is a process which can be used to improve


decision-making and ensure that development options under consideration are
environmentally, socially and economically sound and sustainable.
It is concerned with identifying, predicting and evaluating the foreseeable impacts, both
beneficial and adverse, of proposed development projects and alternatives.

It aims to eliminate or minimise negative impacts and optimise positive impacts


through mitigation and enhancement measures.

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CHARACTERISTICS OF EIA

• EIA is a continuous and integral component of planning that should run


continuously throughout the planning cycle of any development initiative. It is
complementary to all other forms of planning. To be effective, EIA needs to be
initiated at the earliest possible stage of project planning and design. Provision
should also be made for mechanisms to facilitate continuous feedback between the
EIA process, project design activities and decision-making.

• EIA facilitates dialogue, prediction and response and provides a forum for
proponents, decision-makers and the public, to consider the potential impacts of a
project on local communities, natural resources and environmental quality. It also
provides a framework within which actual effects can be monitored, and provides
managers with plans to respond to these effects.

• EIA helps to enhance social and economic opportunities and to promote


conservation and provides a mechanism for enhancing new economic and social
opportunities and for introducing long-term environmental protection and
conservation measures into project design.

• EIA provides a framework for stakeholder participation in decision-making,


experience has shown that development projects imposed on local communities
often fail to address issues of local concern and priority, and hence fail to engender a
perception of local ownership. EIA can facilitate public participation within the
project cycle and bring various stakeholder groups together and provide an
opportunity to exchange information and build consensus between the groups
involved.

• EIA is a tool to improve decision-making, and provides project-specific and


strategic information before project implementation decisions are reached. It is also
a mechanism for addressing cross-sectoral and cross-boundary issues. As a result,
EIA helps to avoid inadvertent problems and their associated costs during project
design.

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BENEFITS OF THE EIA PROCESS


• Potentially screens out environmentally-unsound projects
• Proposes modified designs to reduce environmental impacts
• Identifies feasible alternatives
• Predicts significant adverse impacts
• Identifies mitigation measures to reduce, offset, or eliminate major impacts
• Engages and informs potentially affected communities and individuals
• Influences decision-making and the development of terms and conditions

WHO PREPARES AN EIA?


Depending on the EIA system, the responsibility for producing an EIA will be assigned
to one of two parties:
(1) the government agency or ministry, or
(2) the project proponent.
If EIA laws permit, either party may opt to hire a consultant to prepare the EIA or
handle specific portions of the EIA process, such as public participation or technical
studies.

Some EIA laws recognize the inherent conflict of interest produced when a mining
company or other project proponent hires a consultant to prepare an EIA. Using a
consultant carries the risk that the document will be biased in favour of proceeding with
the project. If a consultant is hired by the mining company, conflicts may arise if the
consultant believes it will receive future work if the project is approved, or even
indirect benefits from related activities (e.g., consulting work for a port where ore will
be exported).

Some laws require consultants to be registered with the government and/or


professionally accredited in EIA preparation. In some instances, a consultant may be
required to file a statement disclosing any financial or other interest in the outcome of
the project.

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ROLE OF EIA IN ADDRESSING SOME COMMON PLANNING DILEMMAS

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CHALLENGES OF EIA

1. Limited Resources and Technical Knowledge


The major challenge facing EIA in developing countries is limited resources and
technical knowledge. The volume of work required to conduct an EIA more often than
not exceeds the number of qualified personnel. As a result, companies employ people
who know little or nothing about environmental management to conduct EIAs. This lack
of expertise in turn leads to poor quality reports that do very little in the required
assessment.

2. Lack of Environmental Data and Climate Forecast


Many developing countries do not have proper data collection methods. As a result, data
available is often unreliable or incomplete. This makes the EIA process harder to carry
out. This lack of data limits EIA considerably and leads to expensive data acquisition
costs as each project has to generate its own data rather than accessing available local,
regional or national data.

3. Ethical Challenges and the Human Factor


The main objective of an EIA is to protect the environment from damage usually in form
of pollution. Sometimes, this could be at the detriment of human beings.

For instance, building a new hospital could be deemed as unfit for the environment
because there is a lake in the area and the project will inevitably disrupt the aquatic life
there. Now the question is: Is aquatic life more valuable than the thousands of lives a
hospital would save?

While the reason for this decision might appear laudable on paper, convincing the
average person to see this might be tough. Situations like this make it difficult for EIA to
be viewed as a tool for sustainable development. Instead, it can sometimes be seen as a
hindrance to socio-economic development.

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DEVELOPMENT ACTIVITY
The Environment of Human Being Includes:

 Abiotic Factors:- Land, water, atmosphere, climate, sound, odours and taste.

 Biotic Factors:- Fauna (animal life of a region or geological period) Flora (the plants
of a particular region or geological period) Ecology, bacteria and viruses; and all
those social factors which make up the quality of life.

The rapid growing population and economic development is leading to a number of


environmental issues in the world because of the uncontrolled growth of urbanization
and industrialization, expansion and massive intensification of agriculture, and the
destruction of forests.

Major environmental issues are forest and agricultural degradation of land, resource
depletion (water, mineral, forest, sand, rocks etc.), environmental degradation, public
health, loss of biodiversity, loss of resilience in ecosystems, livelihood security for the
poor.

An increase in the World’s population has greatly increased the pressure on its natural
resources. Water shortages, soil exhaustion and erosion, deforestation, air and water
pollution afflicts many areas.

ECOLOGICAL FACTORS
Nature conservation can be defined as the protection of the natural richness of a
landscape. Such a richness consists of elements (soil, geomorphology, vegetation, flora,
fauna) that are linked by natural processes. The process of assessing the significance of
an area for nature conservation is termed ecological evaluation.

Selecting and designating areas of land as nature reserves; allocating different land-use
intensities within a nature reserve; assessing the magnitude of the impacts on
ecosystems caused by a proposed development; recommending the most ecologically-

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friendly land corridor to host a new infrastructure. These are all activities to which
ecologists are commonly asked to contribute. They all rely on the preliminary
identification of different degrees of significance for conservation associated with the
natural areas occurring within the region under analysis.

The EIA team is typically heterogeneous, gathering people with a broad range of
expertise, such as geologists, biologists, water resource specialists, landscape analysts,
and so on and so forth. The core of each disciplinary study consists in the assessment of
the significance of the impacts that the project is to cause on the relevant environmental
component. This is what will be ultimately taken into account during the decision-
making process.

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT EIS

An EIS is a document that describes the impacts on the environment as a result of a


proposed action.

PURPOSE OF AN EIS
An Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is a document prepared to describe the
effects for proposed activities on the environment. "Environment," in this case, is
defined as the natural and physical environment and the relationship of people with
that environment.

This means that the "environment" considered in an EIS includes land, water, air,
structures, living organisms, environmental values at the site, and the social, cultural,
and economic aspects.

An "impact" is a change in consequence that results from an activity. Impacts can be


positive or negative or both. An EIS describes impacts, as well as ways to "mitigate"
impacts. To "mitigate" means to lessen or remove negative impacts.

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Therefore, an Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS, is a document that describes the


impacts on the environment as a result of a proposed action. It also describes impacts of
alternatives as well as plans to mitigate the impacts.

REQUIREMENT OF EIS
 A document, prepared after careful studies, describing a proposed development or
activity, and disclosing the possible, probable, or certain effects of that proposal on
the environment.

 An EIS should be comprehensive in its treatment of the subject matter, objective in


its approach, and sufficiently specific for a reasonably intelligent and informed mind
to examine the potential environmental consequences of the carrying out or not
carrying out of that proposal.

 An EIS should meet the requirement that it alerts the decision-maker, members of
the public, and the government to the consequences to the community; it should also
explore possible alternatives to the project that might maximize the benefits while
minimizing the negative impacts.

 The purpose of an EIS is to assist the decision-maker in arriving at a better informed


decision

FORMAL DEFINITION
An EIS is a detailed written statement which serves as an action-forcing device to
ensure that the policies and goals defined in the national environmental protection act
are infused into the ongoing programs and actions of the government.

It must provide full and fair discussion of significant environmental impacts and must
inform decision makers and the public of the reasonable alternatives which would avoid
or minimize adverse impacts or enhance the quality of life of the human environment.

An EIS is more than a disclosure document. It must be used by government officials in


conjunction with other relevant material to plan actions and make decisions.

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BREAKDOWN OF EIS
A typical EIS contains the following three parts:

Part 1 – Methods and key issues:


This part deals with the statement of methods used and a summary of key issues.

Part 2 – Background to the proposed development:


This part deals with preliminary studies (i.e., need, planning, alternatives, site selection,
etc.), site description/baseline conditions, description of proposed development and
construction activities and programmes.

Part 3 – Environmental impact assessments on topic areas:


This part deals with land use, landscape and visual quality, geology, topography and
soils, hydrology and water quality, air quality and climate, terrestrial and aquatic
ecology, noise, transport, socio-economic and interrelationships between effects.

TYPES OF EIS
There exist three types of EIS:

1. Draft EIS

2. Final EIS

3. Supplementary EIS

Draft EIS

The draft EIS is the document prepared by the lead firm proposing an action. It is
circulated for review and comment to other firms or authority, local or foreign, public or
private. The lead firm must make every effort to disclose and discuss at appropriate
intervals in the draft statement all major points of view on the environmental impacts of
all alternatives, including the proposed actions.

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Final EIS
The final EIS is the draft EIS modified to include a discussion of problems and objections
raised by the reviewers. The final statement must be on file for at least a 30 day period
prior to initiation of construction on the project.

Supplementary EIS
Lead firms are to prepare supplements to either the draft or final EIS in case the
authority makes substantial changes in the proposed action that are relevant to
environmental concerns.

ADEQUACY OF EIS

Category 1 – adequate
The draft EIS adequately sets forth the environmental impacts of the preferred
alternative and those alternatives reasonably available to the action. No further analysis
or data collection is necessary but the reviewer may suggest the addition of clarifying
language or information.

Category 2 – insufficient information


The draft EIS does not contain sufficient information to completely assess
environmental impacts that should be avoided in order to fully protect the environment
or the reviewer has identified new reasonably available alternatives that are within the
spectrum of those analysed in the drafts EIS and which could reduce the environmental
impacts of the proposal. The identified additional information, data, analysis or
discussion should be included in the final EIS.

Category 3 - Inadequate
The draft EIS does not adequately assess the potentially significant environmental
impacts of the proposal or the reviewer has identified new, reasonably available
alternatives which are outside of the spectrum of those analysed in the draft EIS and
which should be analysed to reduce the potentially significant environmental impacts.

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HEIRARCHY OF ENVIRONMENTAL ASESSMENT

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FINDINGS OF NO SIGNIFICANT IMPACT (FONSI)


A Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) presents the reasons why an action will not
have a significant effect on the human environment. It must include the Environment
Assessment (EA) or summary of the EA that supports the FONSI determination.

A FONSI is issued when environmental analysis and interagency review during the EA
process find a project to have no significant impacts on the quality of the environment.
No formal public circulation of the FONSI is required, but the concerned authority must
be notified of the availability of the FONSI. In addition, it is recommended that the
public be notified through notices in local newspapers.

THE NEED FOR ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT


Economic, social and environmental change is inherent to development. Whilst
development aims to bring about positive change it can lead to conflicts. In the past, the
promotion of economic growth as the motor for increased well-being was the main
development thrust with little sensitivity to adverse social or environmental impacts.

The need to avoid adverse impacts and to ensure long term benefits led to the concept
of sustainability. This has become accepted as an essential feature of development if the
aim of increased well-being and greater equity in fulfilling basic needs is to be met for
this and future generations.

In order to predict environmental impacts of any development activity and to provide


an opportunity to mitigate against negative impacts and enhance positive impacts, the
environmental impact assessment (EIA) procedure was developed in the 1970s.

EIA thus has three main functions:

• to predict problems,
• to find ways to avoid them, and
• to enhance positive effects.

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The third function is of particular importance. The EIA provides a unique opportunity to
demonstrate ways in which the environment may be improved as part of the
development process.

The EIA also predicts the conflicts and constraints between the proposed project,
programme or sectoral plan and its environment. It provides an opportunity for
mitigation measures to be incorporated to minimize problems. It enables monitoring
programmes to be established to assess future impacts and provide data on which
managers can take informed decisions to avoid environmental damage.

EIA is a management tool for planners and decision makers and complements other
project studies on engineering and economics. Environmental assessment is now
accepted as an essential part of development planning and management. It should
become as familiar and important as economic analysis in project evaluation.

The aim of any EIA should be to facilitate sustainable development. Beneficial


environmental effects are maximized while adverse effects are ameliorated or avoided
to the greatest extent possible. EIA will help select and design projects, programmes or
plans with long term viability and therefore improve cost effectiveness.

It is important that an EIA is not just considered as part of the approval process.
Volumes of reports produced for such a purpose, which are neither read nor acted upon,
will devalue the process. A key output of the EIA should be an action plan to be followed
during implementation and after implementation during the monitoring phase. To
enable the action plan to be effective the EIA may also recommend changes to laws and
institutional structures.

BASELINE INFORMATION
Baseline studies using available data and local knowledge will be required for scoping.
Once key issues have been identified, the need for further in-depth studies can be
clearly identified and any additional data collection initiated.

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Specialists, preferably with local knowledge, will be needed in each key area identified.
They will need to define further data collection, to ensure that it is efficient and targeted
to answer specific questions, and to quantify impacts.

A full year of baseline data is desirable to capture seasonal effects of many


environmental phenomena. However, to avoid delay in decision making, short-term
data monitoring should be undertaken in parallel with long-term collection to provide
conservative estimates of environmental impacts.

DATA SOURCE

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