Environmental Impact Assessment

The International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA) defines an environmental impact assessment as “the process of identifying, predicting, evaluating and mitigating the biophysical, social, and other relevant effects of development proposals prior to major decisions being taken and commitments made.”

Environment Impact Assessment was first formerly established in the USA in 1969. It has spread worldwide and received a significant boost in Europe with the introduction of European Community (EC) Directive on EIA in 1985. In India, Environmental Impact Assessment was started in 1976-77 when the Planning Commission asked the then Department of Science and Technology to examine the river-valley projects from environmental angle. Subsequently, this covered all the projects, which required approval of the Public Investment Board.  However, these were administrative decisions lacked the legislative support. On 23rd May 1986, the Government of India enacted the Environment (Protection) Act. Environmental Impact Assessment was made statutory to achieve the objectives of the Act. A notification was issued on 27th January 1994 making environmental impact assessment statutory for 30 activities.  This notification was subsequently amended on 4th May 1994, 10th April 1997 and 27th January 2000 (Annex 1).  This is most important legislation governing environmental impact assessment in India.

The process of EIA is a systematic process that examines the environmental consequences of development actions, before the project is set up to avoid costly changes later. The emphasis, compared with many other mechanisms for environmental protection, is on prevention. It is the process of predicting the impact of a planned activity, usually a project or policy, on the environment before that project/policy is initiated. A good EIA ensures that decision-makers have available as good information as possible when considering projects.

The process of EIA in India consists of the following steps:

  • Screening
  • Scoping and consideration of alternatives
  • Baseline data collection
  • Impact prediction
  • Assessment of alternatives, delineation of mitigation measures and environmental impact statement
  • Public hearing
  • Environment Management Plan
  • Decision makin
  • Monitoring the clearance conditions

Structurally, EIA can be thought of as being composed of three layers. The first layer is concerned with the formal legal and administrative procedures associated with EIAs. The second layer within the EIA is study itself, while the third layer within