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ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT:

ITS CURRENT SCENARIO IN INDIA


Achal Garg 1, Shivam Chaudhary 2
1 Student, University of Petroleum and Energy Studies
2 Student, University of Petroleum and Energy Studies
Corresponding Author: Achal Garg
Bansal Home, Shimla Byepass Road, Near PNB Colony, Majra, Dehradun-248001 (Uttarakhand) INDIA
E-mail: achalgarg_1992@yahoo.com
Mobile: +91-8445774767

Abstract
The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has been prepared to address the potential environmental impacts that
could arise from the construction and operation of a project. The main sections of the EIA include definition of the
legal and institutional frameworks, description of the project and the environment, impact assessment, identification
of mitigation measures, and presentation of an environmental management plan (EMP). Additionally, the EIA
evaluates various alternative treatment technologies and presents technical criteria on which to base the selection of
most suitable site and technology. It is desirable to have an idea of possible impact of any development plan on our
environment. In order to have sustainable development it is necessary that before we embark on a project, we have
to assess the effects of its development on the environment. It presents a clear & concise picture of all benefits &
cost associated with alternative courses of action and provides a mechanism for merging the concerns for
environment & economics in the process of decision-making. This paper discusses the accountability of responsible
institutions in enforcing environmental assessments & procedures and challenges in enforcing laws for EIA.
Key Words: EIA, Sustainable development, Accountability.

1.0 Introduction:
Environmental impact assessment (EIA), broadly defined, is a planning process to predict, assess, and mitigate the
potential impacts of project development on the biophysical and human environment. Assessing all the significant
impacts of an activity (say an industry) on various components of environment (land, water, air, flora, fauna, socioeconomics etc) for proposed activity, for existing activity or for existing activity proposed for extension/ alteration is
the Environmental Impact Assessment.
Past experience has shown that programs and projects undertaken in different sectors of the country have caused
damage to the environment and to public health. This is because traditional project preparations and decisions were
mainly based on short term economic and technical feasibilities and neglected the environmental and social as well
as the long-term economic dimensions. A number of proclamations and supporting regulations were made that
contain provisions for the protection and management of the environment which reflect the principles of the
Constitution.
The objective of Environmental Impact Assessment is to develop baseline data of the project area from primary and
secondary sources on physical and ecological environmental attributes, which would include collection and analysis
of soil and water samples, air and noise quality monitoring and investigations for ecological parameters.

All activity disturbs environment: 1) Draws resources from it, 2) Discharges products and wastes, and 3)
Disturbances are caused by dislocation movement or noise.
Parties Involved: 1) Causing disturbances - Industry, 2) Affected by impact - Community/ Environment: those
speaking for it, and 3) Mediators - Regulatory Agencies.
Main objectives of EIA from the point of view of: 1) Affected by impact - Maximum benefits, minimum adverse
impacts, ensure protection of all interests; 2) Regulatory agencies - Provide basis and/ or cover up for grant/ refusal
of clearance/ consent/ certificate 3) Industry - To obtain government clearances/ consent, to satisfy ISO, WB, ADB,
WTO, Customers etc, to satisfy courts, NGO, Community, selection of appropriate site/ layout/ technology, to
improve understanding and ensure better management of processes, materials and wastes hence protection of
environment and long-term good will of above, and 4) Consultant: To ensure clearance/ consent for his payments
with minimum efforts & maximum cover-up.

2.0 Elements of EIA/ Typical Impacts:


The Environmental Impact Assessment process begins by identifying the development and operational activities
resulting from the proposed/ existing project. The type and magnitude of the impacts however, depend on the
specific attributes of the given environment. Impact assessment during various phases of project cycle namely
Project location, Construction and Operation with a view to assess.
2.1 The change in land use pattern with special reference to loss of forestland and its type.
2.2 Impacts on places/ monuments of archaeological and historical importance and management plan if any
required.
2.3 Impacts on flora including the endangered species, which would possibly be affected by the project and suggest
plans for their conservation.
2.4 The impacts on terrestrial as well as aquatic fauna and measures proposed to counteract adverse effects.
2.5 Impacts due to construction of infrastructure works such as roads, opening of new quarries etc.
2.6 Impacts due to operation of the project.
2.7 Health related impacts covering population growth, jobs, incomes, standard of life, education, crime-rate, change
in culture and overall quality of life.
2.8 Physical environmental impacts includes acid rain, green house effect, climate change, loss of visibility, odour,
noise, congestion, traffic hazards and corrosion of structures or materials.

3.0 Approach Taken in India:


The methodology of the EIA study can be summarized as follows:
3.1 Pre-field stage: On the basis of available maps and information a base map had been prepared at smaller scale
and presented based on secondary data to highlight important issues noted for reconnaissance.
3.2 Field stage: The field stage had been undertaken by all the experts for visual assessment and local inquiries and
for meeting the critical data gaps, and identifying potential environmental and social impacts.
3.3 Post-field stage: To assess the impacts of the construction on environment and on land degradation/
desertification, studies had been undertaken in the context of natural/ biotic intervention, over-exploitation of
resources etc.

3.4 Geology and hydrogeology: Objectives of the study includes collection and review of existing geological and
hydro-geological data, study of topographic maps, study of sub-surface geology for identifying the aquifer zones and
their aerial distribution, study of water maps to identify the occurrence and depth of groundwater, study of water
table contour maps to identify the areas of recharge and discharge and also to find out the movement and gradient of
groundwater; study of hydrochemistry of surface and groundwater, study of the aquifer characteristics, study of
rainfall record for working out the rainfall infiltration, study of groundwater development and its effects on the
groundwater regime on a long term basis.
3.5 Social and cultural dynamism: To assess the social perspective on development and response to the changing
use of human resources
3.6 Institutional study: Care had been taken to study organigrams of the National and Governmental administration
highlighting the powers and responsibilities of the different departments. Law regarding right to land property,
access to water, land use controls etc, were also referred to.
3.7 Prehistoric/ Archeology resource study: The following methodology had been adopted for this study:
3.7.1 Pre-field stage: Comprehensive literature review of published and unpublished documents relevant
to the prehistory and archeology of the general project area.
3.7.2 Field stage: Comprehensive field survey aimed at locating and recording prehistoric and
archeological sites within the proposed corridor.
3.7.3 Site testing: To address site significance through utilizing certain criteria such as site integrity and
the presence of in situ cultural materials of regional, local and academic research importance.
3.7.4 Data analysis/ Report preparation: Included analysis of recovered facts and preparation of a report,
findings at each site as well as a statement of significance for the encountered archeological sites, the expected
impact(s) from the proposed project on the evaluated sites and recommendations.

4.0 Proposed Methodology - Practical and Tried:


4.1 Identification of major impacts likely and hence directions for future work through intensive reconnaissance of
study area and talking to local community by experienced expert team.
4.2 Collection of all possible secondary data for the study area - topography, geology, soils, climate, drainage,
irrigation, land use, forests, crops, yields, wildlife, birds, insects, domestic animals, animal products, existing
industries, mining, population, health, incomes, education, living standards, culture, social customs, crime rates,
existing pollution inventories, existing air, water and soil quality, buildings, monuments etc.
4.3 On basis of information and understanding gathered in above steps, compiling an IEIA (Initial Environmental
Impact Assessment) which shall be subjective and qualitative but shall be experienced expert opinion and shall lay
down scope and bounds for quantification.
4.4 Quantifying the actual/ likely/ predicted impact on air, water and soil through mathematical modeling of the
disturbance/ pollution caused - Village/ Ward wise.
4.5 Assessment/ prediction of impact of above areal disturbances on forests, crops, wild life, domestic animals,
incomes, health, standard of life, education, culture, crime rates, quality of life etc. Village/ ward and socioeconomic group wise - Overall village/ ward evaluation giving weightage to different socio-economic groups.
4.6 Identifying villages/ wards or socio-economic groups who shall be significant losses and working out ways of
ameliorating, balancing or compensating these.
4.7 Presenting the village/ ward/ group wise impacts, preferably on overlay maps before a Jury of selected experts
and peers to refine and finalize the layout. Only then submit it to authorities or for a public hearing.
4.8 Development of an Environmental Management Plan: Recommending feasible and cost effective measures to
prevent or reduce negative impacts and enhance positive ones.

4.9 Development of a Monitoring Plan: Through the preparation of a detailed plan to monitor the implementation of
environment management actions and the impacts of the project during construction and operation.

5.0 Present Practices in India:


For an effective implementation of an EIA two pre-requisites are vital: proper qualification of the conducting agency
and its independence and non-polarity. Unfortunately, these two conditions are not strictly observed. An array of
agencies and consultants are available, all claiming to be qualified and experienced in conducting ElAs for all types
of projects. The time factor affects the quality of EIA in so far as the lateness of the EIA would not permit
meticulous, integrated conduct of the assignment, nor would it allow for application of the recommended mitigation
procedures. The participation of the local people and NGOs will no doubt act as a safeguard ensuring that the EIA
has not overlooked the envisaged impacts on the community concerned. This participatory involvement should
begin from the point of the project identification and continue throughout the project cycle.
The following points show the present conditions of EIA methodology and practices in general way:
5.1 No IEIA done; scope and contract finalized as per routine.
5.2 Lot of irrelevant field data collected; significant impacts ignored.
5.3 All modeling/ computation of impacts non-validated, often manipulated.
5.4 Consultants involved only till clearances, no long term responsibility.
5.5 Comprehensive EIAs to have one year field data, rapid EIAs to have only one season.
Environmental clearances of proposed projects, based on EIAs meant to be tools to ensure that the proposed project/
activity shall not in any way adversely affect the environment, ecology or the sustainable long term interest of the
people of the area.
Parties Involved: 1) Project Proponent, 2) EIA Consultant: Hired by proponent, 3) Government Departments and
Agencies: Essentially working to clear and promote projects in the race for economic gains, 4) Suffering:
Environment, ecology and people, 5) Environmental activists and NGOs, and 6) Courts.

6.0 Conclusion:
Past experiences has shown that most of the EIAs undertaken by many of the proponents have been at a late stage
during the study phase rather than early in the screening phase and this does not fit the EIA objective of influencing
the choice of project alternatives. There needs to be a way of addressing appropriate mechanisms to ensure adequate
and useful public involvement throughout the project cycle. Pending issues such as institutional arrangements so as
to effectively execute the EIA, setting the time frame for various stages of EIA process, and the incorporation of
workable appeal and grievance procedure have not yet been settled.
Adverse environmental impacts may occur even if all notified standards/ norms are compiled with. A real EIA has to
go deep in to all, particularly all adverse impacts likely and quantify them acting like an environmental detective.
All inputs for all activities/ projects essentially drawn from environment. While examination, impacts has to cover
procurement of all inputs, their transport, processing and the whole life cycle of the products. For example EIA for a
mining project should also cover transport, processing and utilization of mined material. EIA for an industry using a
mined raw material should cover mining and transport of the mineral. EIA for a project using biomass raw material
should cover impact of growing/ transporting such input e.g. paper-mills, sugar-mills and also irrigation systems,
fertilizers, pesticides, tractors.

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