Q) “Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a tool used to identify the environmental, social and economic impacts of a project prior to decision-making. Is the EIA beneficial? Examine the flaws in it.”
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a process of evaluating the likely environmental impacts of a proposed project or development, taking into account inter-related socio-economic, cultural and human-health impacts, both beneficial and adverse.
It aims to predict environmental impacts at an early stage in project planning and design, find ways and means to reduce adverse impacts, shape projects to suit the local environment and present the predictions and options to decision-makers.
EIA is beneficial because it
- Links environment with development for environmentally safe and sustainable development.
- Encourages the adaptation of mitigation strategies in the developmental plan.
- Provides a cost effective method to eliminate or minimize the adverse impact of developmental projects.
Flaws in EIA
- There are several projects with significant environmental impacts that are exempted from the notification either because they are not listed in schedule I, or their investments are less than what is provided for in the notification.
- Lack of expertise in various fields such as environmentalists, wildlife experts, Anthropologists and Social Scientists within the assessing team.
- A number of projects with significant environmental and social impacts have been excluded from the mandatory public hearing process.
- One of the biggest concerns with the environmental clearance process is related to the quality of the EIA report that is being carried out.
- Public comments are not considered at an early stage, which often leads to conflict at a later stage of project clearance.
- Emergency preparedness plans are not discussed in sufficient details and the information not disseminated to the communities.
We need much stronger laws to protect the environment and to ensure that natural resources are available to the poorest who need them the most. There are a large number of communities like Adivasis, peasants and coastal and fisher communities whose lives mainly depend on the state of the environment. Any drastic changes in EIA will have a direct impact on the living and working conditions of these people and the ecology.
The findings of EIA should be focused on the significant and essential issues. It is also required to provide a sufficient explanation on why they are important, and study its validity in order to facilitate a basis for policy decisions.