Environmental Impact Assessment in Planing and Project Appraisal
Environment means the surroundings consisting of air, water, soil, food and shelter which can support and influence the growth of life of an individual or group of individuals, including all kinds of flora and fauna. Broadly, it is the physicochemical, biological and social surroundings of man and sustainable development which is a process of change in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, and the orientation of technological development and institutional changes are all in harmony and enhance both current and future potential to meet human needs and aspirations. Sustainable development is the optimum utilisation of resources to get maximum benefits for the present generations and resources must be kept available for the future population through sustainable development. It ensures friendly environment.
According to The Environment Pollution Control Ordinance, 1977, project means any activity initiated by the government or the board with a view to controlling, preventing and abating pollution of environment or gathering information and conducting researches for the said purposes. Board means Environmental Pollution Control Board consisting of senior government officials from different ministries and organisations. Environmental friendly project is the requirement for planning and project appraisal.
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a comprehensive assessment method of analysing environmental issues which are primarily or secondarily related with the planning, implementation, operation and maintenance stages of a project for sustainable development. Normally any project is evaluated economically; sometimes, social issues are also considered. EIA analyses the project from the environmental point of view.
EIA in Project Planning
EIA is a planning tool which is to be used together with the project feasibility study to ensure that the project plan is the optimal economic-cum-environmental plan, that is the plan which is environmentally as well as economically sound and thus represents the best approach to planning for development projects in order that continuing development will be sustainable. A project plan which is optimal from both environmental and economic perspectives will have a higher benefit/cost ratio than a plan which is not responsive to environmental needs especially so when long term as well as short term effects are considered.
Objectives of EIA
It is an integral part of multiple resource development planning and feasibility study of a project. Its objectives are: (a) Assisting decision-makers and their constituents in making informed decisions on project development and resource allocation; (b) providing possible quantitative environmental information so that potential impacts can be avoided in project and project design; providing a basis of development of management measures to avoid or reduce negative impacts; and providing an Environmental Management Plan (EMP) for the project that will help promote sustainable development.
EIA is not intended to disrupt nor impede development but should enhance development by ensuring that projects are constructed and operated in an environmentally sound manner and do not negatively affect the functioning of essential environmental process nor the long term sustainability of resource conservation and human well-being.
Methods of Analysing Environmental Impact
Environmental analysis is done both in the prefeasibility and feasibility stages of a project. Initial Environmental Examination (IEE) is used for prefeasibility and EIA for the feasibility stage.
IEE identifies all the related environmental issues at the planning, implementing, operation and maintenance stages of a project. It also measures impacts, whether positive or negative and grades them considering the priority in the project. Sometimes IEE is enough for a project, otherwise, it recommends for EIA at the feasibility study. But for large project EIA with IEE is a must.
EIA is a detailed study of environmental issues. It measures impacts, whether positive or negative, monetarily (if possible) or quantify impacts. It also determines EMP for overall management of impacts effectively and recommends monitoring of environmental issues for future evaluation of the project.
It follows the procedures given below.
Description of the project: Parameters need to be considered are project type, location, area and layout of the project, climate, physiography, landform and soil type of the location.
Environmental baseline description: Following information is needed: Environmental baseline map, natural physical resources, natural biological resources, economic/development resources and socio-economic feature.
Scoping: Scoping may be obtained through published information, expert opinion, people's opinion and identification of environmental issues.
Bounding: Bounding of a project must be clear. They may be physical, political and administrative, social and ecological.
Field investigation: Following information are needed through field investigation: Survey, computation and analysis, risk assessment, climate, land use, soils, ground and surface water, natural biological resources, endangered species, agriculture, fisheries, forest and socio-economic condition.
People's participation: It is needed all through the project. Participation of local people can help in grading and identifying issues. It is obtained through public meeting/hearing, scoping, local government views, seminar or workshop, comments from concerned agency and comments from well informed persons/experts.
Steps in impact assessment: Prediction: Prediction of impacts can be done by modelling (physical, conceptual and mathematical models), correlation with key variables, trend analysis and comparison and projection.
Classification: Impacts are classified in the following ways: Short or long term impacts, frequency of impacts, reversible or irreversible impacts, cumulative or non-cumulative impacts, direct or indirect impacts, synergistic impacts and positive or negative impacts.
Evaluation: Evaluation is important to clarify impacts as it measures impacts as perfect as possible. It is done through economic terms where costing is possible and acceptably accurate, quantitative or numeric terms where costing is not feasible and descriptive term where neither of the above is feasible.
Presentation of Environmental Impact Assessment
Following procedures are used to represent EIA report: Description of impacts, checklist, numerical ratings to magnitude and importance of impacts and cost and benefits in monetary terms. Results can be represented in the matrix form. They may be simple matrix, graded matrix, weighed matrix, environmental compatibility matrix and decision matrix.
Figure 1 represents the overall procedures of EIA in a simplistic way.
Data Collection on the Project
Checklist of Environmental Issues
Magnitude and Grading of Impacts
EIA report and alternate proposals considering environmental point of view EMP
Figure 1: Stepwise Environmental Evaluation of Project
Environmental Management Plan
It is used for overall management of impacts, mentioned in the EIA report, to enhance positive impacts and mitigate negative impacts and monitoring of environmental issues during implementation, operation and maintenance stages of the project. Institutional strengthening is required for effective management Strategies for EMP are shown below:
(a) Mitigation measures to reduce adverse impacts:
It may be adoption of protective measures, selection of alternatives, modifications of activities, changes in construction procedure/materials and adoption of supplementary programme;
(b) Compensation measures for irreversible and residual impacts
It may be resettlement of affected people, development of alternative resources, replacement of lost resources and replacement of lost production.
(c) Enhancement measures to maximise positive impacts
It may be specific environmental enhancement measures, replacement or upgrading of affected resources, technical support to increase production, training for effective management of resources and introducing community management practices.
(d) Environmental monitoring
(e) Disaster management
(f) Institution strengthening
Main limitation is grading and magnitude of impacts may be varied from person to person and there is no such standard system of consideration of these values. It depends on judgement, experience, knowledge and people's participation. Costing of people, health effect, endangered species, wildlife etc are not possible. It is another limitation.
EIA is necessary for overall estimation of cost/benefit of a project at the different stages of a project as it ensures environment friendly development. There should be a specific model where all the issues could be judged perfectly and evaluated monetarily.
The writer is Research Assistant IFCDR, BUET.