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 To understand the necessity and benefits of doing an EIA

 To realize the EIA requirements relating to India

 To develop an understanding of the EIA process


1. Introduction
1.1 Definition of EIA
1.2 Evolution of EIA
1.3 EIA Scenario in India

2. EIA – The Technocratic Side

2.1 Participants in EIA Process
2.2 EIA Process
2.3 EIA Methods

3. EIA - The Bureaucratic Side

3.1 Benefits of EIA
3.2 Limitations of EIA
3.3 Emerging Trends in EIA


We, the human beings have never understood the power and importance of our
nature. We discussed in Module3 about the terrible impacts of our development
processes on human environment. To stop this type of fearsome development, some
legal or scientific measure is a necessity. EIA is such a tool that incorporates the factor
of environment into the process of development planning.

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a techno-managerial process that is

based on the Precautionary Principle. It is a process where the impacts of the
development process are forecasted before the process in a scientific principle. The
process is then allowed to continue on the basis of magnitude, nature and duration of
these impacts. EIA adheres to the age old English proverb of “Look Before you Leap”.
The inner meaning is looking before we leap so that no one including us is hurt while we

Today, Environmental impact assessment (EIA) is an effective and important tool

to ensure environmentally sustainable development. It is the process in which
environmental factors are integrated into project planning and decision-making so as to
achieve ecologically sustainable development. It is a widely used procedure to examine
certain human activities that may have a negative impact on the environment.

There are a lot of definitions available for the process of EIA. The three major
and important definitions and their source are listed below here. For examination
purposes, the students are requested to jot down the third one.


1) EIA is an assessment of impacts on a planned activity on the environment

2) EIA is a process to identify, predict and to describe in appropriate terms, the pros and
cons of proposed development
- United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

EIA is a systematic process of identifying the future consequences of a current or

proposed action - International Agency for Impact Assessment

EIA is a systematic process for identification and evaluation of potential impacts

of proposed projects, plans and programmes relative to the environment. - ENVIS,


The term Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) originated when the National
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was framed in the United States of America (USA) in
November/December 1969. The EIA was a major success in the USA and the practice
slowly spread to other countries such as Singapore (1972), Japan (1972),
Canada(1973), Australia(1974), West Germany(1975), France(1976), China(1979),
Indonesia(1982), Spain (1986), New Zeland(1991) etc. In 1985, EC Directive (85/337)
made EIA mandatory in certain circumstances and more uniformly applied throughout
Europe. Today countries throughout the world have adopted EIA and suited the policy to
their own constitutions, economics and social values. The international agencies such as
World Bank, Asian Development Bank, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
have their own guidelines for EIA
In the Indian context, purists argue that the principles of EIA have been reflected
in the text of Rig Vedas. However the formal EIA has become a part of our national
environmental management by the draft EIA Notification on 27th January 2004. There
have been many amendments to this notification as on May 1994, April 1997, January
2000, December 2000, August 2001, November 2001 and on June 2002. While the other
amendments are primarily additions to the notification, the June 2002 amendment was
very significant. The notification specifies the type of development projects for which EIA
is mandatory.


As per the notification, EIA is necessary in India for the following 29 development
projects and industries given below. These industries should carry out EIA and based on
the EIA report (called EIS) would be issued environmental clearance. Only after the
issue of environmental clearance, they should start the project and would be severely
punished if they fail to do so.


1. Nuclear Power and related projects such as Heavy Water Plants, nuclear fuel
complex, rare earths
2. River Valley projects including hydel power, major irrigation and their combination
including flood control.
3. Ports, Harbours, Airports (except minor ports and harbours).
4. Petroleum Refineries including crude and product pipelines.
5. Chemical Fertilizers (Nitrogenous and Phosphalic other than single
6. Pesticides (Technical).
7. Petrodiemical complexes (Both Olefinic and Aromatic) and Petro-chemical
intermediates such as DMT, Caprolactam, LAB etc. and production of basic plastics
such as LDPE, HDPE, PP, PVC.
8. Bulk drugs and pharmaceuticals.
9. Exploration for oil and gas and their production, transportation and storage.
10. Synthetic Rubber.
11. Asbestos and Asbestos products.
12. Hydrocyanic acid and its derivatives.
13. (a) Primary metallurgical industries (such as production of Iron and Steel,
Aluminium, Copper, Zinc, Lead and Ferro Alloys). (b) Electric arc furnaces (Mini
Steel Plants).
14. Chlor-alkali industry.
15. Integrated paint complex including manufacture of resins and basic raw materials
required in the manufacture of paints.
16. Viscose Staple fibre and filament yam.
17. Storage batteries integrated with manufacture of oxides of lead and lead anotimony
18. All tourism projects between 200m-500 meters of High Tide Line or at locations with
an elevation of more than 1000 meters with investment of more than Rs. 5 crores.
19. Thermal Power Plants.
20. Mining projects (major minerals) with leases more than 5 hectares.
21. Highway Projects.
22. Tarred Roads in Himalayas and/or Forest areas.
23. Distilleries.
24. Raw Skins and Hides.
25. Pulp, paper and newsprint
26. Dyes.
27. Cement.
28. Foundries (individual).
29. Electroplating.
The above list was provided in the 27th January 1994 notification. Even after 10
years, there have been no inclusions or exclusions to this list of projects. However in
June 2002, a major amendment was made. It was added that any building with a cost of
construction over 50 crores would need to get environmental clearance after performing

Thus in our country, EIA is necessary for any project whose cost of construction
is above 50 crore rupees and for the above 29 projects, irrespective of their cost.


In this heading, we shall discuss the various technical details regarding EIA like
the process of carrying out an EIA, the methods used for various stages of EIA etc.
Before going into these details, it is necessary to understand the various participants in
an EIA process


Any EIA would involve the participation of people with various intentions and
expertise. In case of EIA studies, these persons are grouped into the following

1. PROPONENT – A project proponent or proponent is a person who

needs the environmental clearance. He/She is the person interested to
start any of the above mentioned 29 projects or does a massive
construction over 50 crores. They are also referred as developers

2. STAKEHOLDER – The persons who would possible be affected by the

particular project are called stakeholders. They may include the
general public in that particular area

3. ASSESSOR – The technical personnel/ agency that carries out EIA

study and prepares EIA report for the proponent is referred to as

4. REVIEWER – The agency, government official or a technical person

who reviews the EIA report(EIS) for the Government is called reviewer

5. DECISION MAKERS – The Government Agency that provides

environmental clearance after studying the EIS are called decision

6. SPECIAL INTEREST GROUPS – Local Associations, NGOs and

technical agencies that have interest in the development of the project
are special interest groups

7. EXPERTS – For any problem in a particular environment, the assessor

would need to seek the advice of experts in that particular subject.
They are also a vital part of EIA

As mentioned earlier, there are a lot of guidelines on carrying out EIA published
by several agencies in several countries. Therefore contradictions in the presentation of
EIA process may be common. An attempt has been made to present the process in a
simple style that is also suitable for our conditions.


An EIA process can be divided into 7 distinct stages namely

1. Screening
2. Scoping
3. Impact Analysis (or) Detailed Assessment
4. Preparation of Report(EIS)
5. Reviewing of EIA
6. Decision Making
7. Environmental Monitoring

Screening is the first step in any EIA process, to decide whether EIA should be
applied for the project or not. It helps to clear projects that are not likely to cause serious
environmental problems and also to identify projects that may cause huge environmental

In this stage, the Government agencies in company of the assessor review the
project proposal. Screening process divides the project proposals within the following
three categories (1) project clearly requiring an EIA (2) project not requiring an EIA and
(3) project for which application of an EIA is not clear

If the project clearly requires EIA, the next stage of scoping is initiated. If the
project does not require EIA, environmental clearance is given without EIA. When there
is no clarity of judgment, the proponents /assessors are asked to carry out Rapid
Assessment. Rapid Assessment is a process that uses available data and collects data
for one season alone and judgment is based on these data. If the results of the rapid
assessment show that there are no significant impacts (known as FONSI – Finding of No
Significant Impact), then the environmental clearance is granted. If some significant
impacts are found, then the proponents are advised to move to the second stage of

Screening may be done by (1) Measuring against simple criteria such as size or
location of the project (2) Comparing with list of projects requiring EIA (3) Estimating
impacts and performing analysis using readily available data and (4) Based on the
previous experiences with a similar situation


The scoping stage, sometimes merged with screening, involves identification of

important issues and preparation of Terms of Reference (TOR). The aim of scoping is to
ensure that the study addresses all issues of importance to decision makers and
therefore it is more qualitative than quantitative. This deals with a more detailed plan of
study for the project to identify major concerns and key impacts and to decide
assessment methods and models to be used. It involves assembling baseline
information, identifying major issues of concern, and establishing environment
assessment priorities, based on public participation. Public Participation is highly
important in case of scoping and the issues can be identified only based on the views
from publics, special interest groups and decision makers.

At the end of scoping, the Terms of Reference is prepared. The TOR is a

document containing written requirements governing EIA implementation, consultations
to be held, data to be procured, methodology to be used etc. After the approval of TOR
by the decision makers, the assessor moves to the third and most important step of
Impact Analysis.


This step is the heart of EIA. This step is done to predict the impacts of the
proposal, evaluate their significance, and establish measures to prevent, reduce or
compensate for the impacts. The impacts on the following environments are predicted
and evaluated ;(1) Air Environment (2) Surface Water Environment (3) Ground Water
Environment (4) Land Environment (5) Noise Environment (6) Biological Environment (7)
Socio-Economic Environment (8) Cultural Environment and (9) Visual Environment

For all the above 9 types of environment, the impact analysis process is done
through six steps

IDENTIFICATION OF POTENTIAL IMPACTS: This process is a continuation of scoping,

where the main impacts are forecasted based on baseline data. This is normally done by
Checklist Method, Ad – hoc method and Matrix methods.

DESCRIPTION OF EXISTING ENVIRONMENT: Interchangeably called Environmental

Inventory, this process involves the collection of all pertinent environmental data
regarding to the project site for all seasons. The prominent methodologies for this step
are Literature Review and conducting practical studies, wherever necessary.

PROCUREMENT OF RELEVANT BYELAWS: Involves assemblage of relevant

standards, regulations and bye-laws and thereby understand the level and quantity of
impact that may be permissible

PREDICTION OF IMPACTS: In prediction, a scientific characterization of impacts,

causes and effects and their secondary, synergetic consequences for the environment
and local community is done. Prediction is done by the Matrix methods, Network
Methods, Checklist methods, Literature Review and expert judgments.

ASSESSMENT OF SIGNIFICANT IMPACTS: If an activity is found to cause an impact,

then mitigation measures should be taken. However not all predicted impacts may really
cause an impact. This step evaluates the predicted adverse impacts to determine
whether they are significant enough to warrant mitigation. This is done by a combination
of methodologies like expert consultation, mathematical modeling, comparison with
byelaws etc.

INCORPORATION OF MITIGATION MEASURES: If the impacts are found to be really

significant, then alternative action or mitigation measures to avoid the impact becomes a
necessity. It will generally include a mixture of legally-mandated criteria,
technical/scientific criteria, and social acceptability criteria. Alternate sites and design
process should be critically examined to maximize the positive environmental impacts,
socio-economic benefits, and profitability, and minimize the temporary adverse impacts.
The methodology used in this step includes cost benefit analysis, consultation with
stakeholders and decision makers etc. At this juncture, an action plan for impacts and
mitigation called Environmental Management Plan(EMP) should be prepared. EMP may
include technical control measures, integrated monitoring scheme, monitoring,
emergency and contingency schedules etc.

For your better understanding, the methodologies mentioned in those processes

are explained briefly in the next section.


The fourth step in the EIA process is preparation of EIA report. This report
submitted after carrying out environmental impact assessment is called Environmental
Impact Statement (EIS).The aim of this step is to provide the decision makers with
necessary and correct information to aid their process. The assessor should produce an
EIA report (draft EIS) which should be made available to the public for providing inputs
and later revised thoroughly to frame the final EIS.

An EIA report typically contains (1) An executive summary of EIA findings (2) A
description of the project and no project scenario (3) Major environmental and natural
issues that need clarification (4) the impacts of the project on the environment and data
pertaining to how they were identified and predicted (5) a discussion of various
mitigation options and rationale behind choosing a particular option(6)an overview of
gaps and uncertainties & finally (7) summary of EIA for the general public.

All the above should be contained in a very concise, easy to read document with
cross references to background information. The most important thing about preparation
is that many visual aids should be incorporated to make the information lucid and


This step in EIA process is to check whether the EIA has been done properly and
that EIS (EIA report) is sufficient. This process is done by a reviewer (in few cases, the
decision maker may himself turn out to be a reviewer). The reviewer would check the
EIA report for adequacy and relevance of assessment. The process in order involves
selecting of reviewers, setting review criteria, scaling of reviews and recommend suitable
action etc. The reviewing is done by various methods like checklists, expert opinion,
public review, comparison with TOR etc. In reviewing, reviewer sets a scale of reviewing
and gives the project a final rating between A to F, with A well performed and F
unsatisfactory and others from B to E from satisfactory to insufficient. I think the students
should be familiar with such rating systems given their experience in providing a lot of
feedbacks nowadays. Apart from the rating, the following would be added by the
reviewer. (1) A brief summary of the strengths and weaknesses of report (2) Any needs
for further study (3) any terms/conditions that should apply if proposal is granted.


The penultimate step in EIA process and the mot critical step is Decision making.
The decision makers though affiliated with the Government are persons who have not
been closely involved in that particular EIA study. It is akin to our Lab Examinations,
where our examiner is not involved with our activities, but yet a proven expert in that
area. The decision makers go through the EIA report, the review of the EIA report,
consider the practical realities, put in their experience and knowledge and decide for the
course of action. Though well rated reviews get the nod of the decision makers, it is not
mandatory for the decision maker to give clearance based on review. At the end of this
stage, the project either gets the environmental clearance or is asked to be retouched in
some areas or asked to forfeit based on the level, nature and magnitude of impacts. The
Environment Management Plan is the most critical document and once the proponent
gets environmental clearance, he is bound to follow the EMP. On the issue of
environmental clearance, the proponent can start the project.


The usefulness of EIA does not end with environmental clearance alone. EIA has
a good number of contributions during the construction and operation phase to make the
project an environmental success. Monitoring is to monitor, manage and audit impacts of
project implementation. This is done to (1) ensure that impacts do not exceed legal
standards (2) check the implementation of measures provided and (3) to provide early
warning of potential damages. After the completion and operation of the project, a post
project audit should be done to determine the closeness of the predictions to the actual
impact. The post project audit forms a valuable record for the future EIAs. Earlier, the
post project audit was not a mandatory one and therefore received a lukewarm
response. But the Indian Government has come out with a notification on Environmental
Statement, which requires all the major industries to submit an environmental statement
before September 30th of every year after duly conducting an environmental audit. This
notification has aided the process of monitoring

In essence, this is how the EIA process takes place. As mentioned earlier there
are a lot of guidelines on EIA and there are different process flow charts for an EIA
process. I have presented four of the most renowned flow charts. The first one is
recommended by UNEP, the world’s premier organization for environment activities. The
second one is a highly illustrative one given by IAIA. The third one is the famous EIA
project cycle given by the World Bank in its 1991 publication. The final one is a useful
flow chart that synchronizes the EIA project cycle and the EIA process. The student can
choose between the first and fourth for the examination purposes. In case, project cycle
is asked maintain the descriptive and change only the flow chart.

The methodologies employed for these processes are briefly discussed in this
section. Some of the important methods developed over the period are discussed below.

AD HOC APPROACH: This is the oldest and perhaps the crudest approach to EIA. This
method provides qualitative assessment of the total impact while suggesting the broad
areas of the possible impacts. It is done by considering each area and predicting the
impact. This method lacks in quantification and precision

CHECKLIST: Checklists are the lists of environmental attributes. The evaluator needs to
tick against each environmental parameter for adverse, beneficial, or no effects due to
proposed project activities. The method defines the parameters to be evaluated, but it is
usually very large, very subjective, and provides little guidance that can aid in the
decision-making process.

MATRIX METHOD: The method was developed by Leopold and also called as Leopold
Method. The method uses a matrix format to relate project actions and environmental
components. The column of the matrix consists of project actions (normally about 100)
against rows of the matrix of environmental components (in the range of 80s project). If a
project action is likely to make an impact on environmental components, the appropriate
cell is scored for magnitude and importance of the impact (on an arbitrary scale). A +ve
or –ve sign is provided for harmful or beneficial nature of the impact. Row totals of the
matrix reflect the total impact of all project actions on one environmental component,
while the column totals reflect the impact of one project action on all components of the
environment. The matrix total gives the total environmental impact.

NETWORKS: This approach links the project and its impacts in an easily
understandable format. The network method primarily addresses the need by defining a
set of possible networks and allowing the user to identify impacts by selecting and
tracing appropriate project actions. The network method aims at working from a list of
project activities and establishes cause, condition, and effect relationships. Since the
environmental system is dynamic and action-impacting, certain environmental
parameters can lead to a series of impacts on other environmental parameters and this
is taken care by network method. It is also referred to as Impact Tree Diagram

MODELLING: Modelling consists of set of structurally inter related variables which are fit
into a set of mathematical equations and which are processed with the help of
computers to quantify the desired impacts. Modelling techniques give us an extremely
powerful means of environmental impact analysis. They are very useful in the
quantification of impacts in a highly precise manner. It is no doubt that they are
becoming the most popular EIA methodology.

CONTENT ANALYSIS: Content Analysis is an extensive search of related literature in

order to enlist activities and their impacts. It can be very useful if the project to be
assessed and its setting are similar to cases in the past. However that is very rare.

EXPERT OPINION: If number of experts is large and properly chosen, the Expert
Opinion would provide us with the most qualitative information related to our solutions.
Expert Opinion is normally sought through opinion polls, panel discussions and
brainstorming sessions.

After learning the technical details relating to EIA, it becomes necessary to

understand the pros and cons of EIA.



EIA is definitely the best environment management tool to have evolved in the
21 century. It offers a wide variety of benefits, which can be grouped into the four major

Consideration of environment effects whilst planning: Before EIA, economy was the
only factor whilst planning a development activity. Now environment is formally and
systematically incorporated in the process of development. Thus EIA strikes a balance
between environment and development and contributes towards sustainable

Assessment of intangible effects: With the absence of a procedure in our way of life
to continuously assess our environmental resources, i.e. to form an environmental
inventory, we are not aware of any forthcoming impacts. EIA is an opportunity to identify
impacts that are not addressed in the normal situations by technical reports

Safeguarding of Natural resources: EIA helps us to safeguard our natural resources of

air, water, land, flora and fauna from haphazard development activities.

Facilitation of Public Participation: Community/Public participation is very vital for

environmental management in a particular area. In our country, we do not have a
mechanism to involve public in natural resources management. However in EIA, it is
mandatory to involve the local community. Thus public participation is facilitated by EIA.

The introduction of EIA has encountered resistance on the part of many people,
who see it as an unwanted change from traditional practice. EIA has been severely
criticized, especially so in the developing countries. Some of the limitations of EIA have

1) EIA is a time consuming process

2) EIA is a costly process
3) EIA requires high scientific analysis
4) There is no institutional support base for carrying out EIA
5) The political and public awareness regarding EIA is very low


It would be apt to conclude this discussion on EIA with a note on two emerging
areas in EIA called Environmental Risk Assessment (ERA) and Strategic Environmental
Assessment (SEA).

In EIA; we aim to address the consequences of various development activities

that are relatively well known and whose magnitude can be measured by techniques.
However conditional, uncertain and probabilistic aspects of these impacts are not
considered. The ERA is used to differentiate a new and additional level of analysis in
which the probabilistic element is explicitly addressed. ERA deals with risks to human
health and welfare that arise in or transmitted by the natural environment, and is added
for EIA for significant projects.

Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is a systematic process for

identifying, predicting, reporting and mitigating environmental impacts of proposed
policies, plans or programmes (PPPs). While EIA is for development projects, SEA is
meant for development plans, policies etc. SEA is intended to ensure that the individual
policies are complementary of one another in achieving the aim of sustainable
development, and fulfill the requirements of International, National, Regional and Local
sustainable development goals..

In summary, Environmental impact assessment is an effective management tool,

which can avoid disastrous impacts on the environment. However in our country it needs
to be executed by recognizing project proponents with good environmental practices;
strengthening institutional networking for proper implementation of EIA, emphasizing on
information dissemination, education, communication, and training activities, and
enforcing the EIA requirements strictly.