Environmental Impact Assessment

Material Science : Chapter 7: Composites
June 29, 2017
Material Science : Chapter 6: Polymers
June 30, 2017

 

  1. Case Studies
    1. POSCO Steel Plant
    2. Tawang Hydro Electric Project
    3. Ken-Betwa River Link
  2. Why do we need EIA?
  3. Principles of EIA
  4. EIA process
    1. Steps in EIA
    2. Roles of different parties
  5. EIA in India
    1. History
    2. Process
    3. Regulations for different types of projects
    4. Environmental Appraisal Committee
  6. Has EIA served its objectives?
  7. FAQs
    1. What is special about the Bhitarkanika sanctuary?
    2. NGT and its functions
    3. What is meant by baseline study?
    4. What is Social Impact Assessment and how is it different from EIA?
  8. Practice Questions

1. Case Studies

Let us learn about the Environmental Impact Assessment through the following stories.

1.1 POSCO Steel Plant

  • Jagatsinghpur is a coastal village of Odisha, where the South Korean multinational corporation Pohang Iron and Steel Company (POSCO) proposed to built a 12 million tonnes per year steel plant.
  • This was widely celebrated as the single largest infusion of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) since the Indian economy liberalised in 1991.

  • So all is well and happy; and mean while Odisha CM was canvassing hard to gain the mileage
  • But unfortunately, even after one decade of its initial conception, Ache Din yet to come

Why such an ambitious project was stalled?

The controversy surrounding the POSCO project has clearly emerged as a struggle around

  • Material issues of livelihood and the impact of the project on the homes, farms of people in the proposed site
  • The economic future of local communities in coastal Jagatsinghpur and the Khandadhar hills of Keonjhar and Sundergarh

A triangular hate story

  • The Government of Orissa: This is a crucial part of the economic advancement of the State. 
  • Local people: The three gram sabhas in the steel plant area passed resolutions to not divert any forest land to the POSCO project.
  • The POSCO project entered legal battles when the Forest Rights Act (FRA) of 2006 came to force. 
  • The other issues:
    • Impacts on communities outside of the immediate geographical area of the project
    • Marine and wildlife (such as the impacts on endangered species such as Olive Ridley Turtles, Elephants, Tigers, Limbless Lizards, etc.), riverine and coastal topography and forests.
    • Bhitarkanika sanctuary[FAQ 1] is very near (refer above map)

The environmental clearance to the project was suspended because of the flawed Environment impact assessment. And finally such a big investment was withdrawn. From this case study, one may wonder importance of EIA.

The Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Clearance for POSCO project

  • Two separate EIAs were produced
    • One for the port by the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO)
    • Another for the steel plant by M.N. Dastur and Co. (a private consulting company)
  • Systematic steps followed in the process are
    • EIA document was made public
    • The public hearing was held
    • Summaries of the above two steps were presented to a central committee
    • The environment clearance was granted to the project in January 2011

But the environmental clearance was challenged before the National Green Tribunal(NGT) based on below observations

  • Impact on the environment was overlooked  
  • Procedural shortcomings like dividing entire project into many parts instead of one
  • Rapid EIAs were performed instead of Comprehensive EIAs 
  • The public hearing process was held in an area far from the affected 
  • Violation of other environmental regulations

The NGT[FAQ 2] verdict

The verdict says “The environment clearance granted to POSCO’s steel project in Orissa in January 2011 will remain suspended till the Environment Ministry reviews it afresh”.

The Tribunal pronounced suspension of project based on under representations of the scale of impact of the project in the EIA report.

What happened to the project?

In 2017, POSCO offered to return the land for planned steel project to Odisha government. 

This case study shows the importance of conducting a comprehensive Impact Assessment before proceeding for the project implementation

1.2 Tawang Hydro Electric Project

  • The Nyamjang Chhu riverine area was proposed for the construction of a hydro electric project
  • It is the habitat of black-necked crane, a protected species held sacred by Buddhists
  • The EIA had avoided any reference to the species
  • The National Green Tribunal (NGT) suspended the clearance for the project granted in 2016 on the ground that the EIA didn’t consider the impact of the hydro project on the habitat of the black-necked crane
  • Now the questions are
    • Whether the presence of black-necked cranes and other biodiversity is ‘good enough’ to stop a project.
    • Whether projects need to be appraised in the light of spiritual, altruistic and religious concerns.
    • Whether the environment impact assessment (EIA), which lead to environmental clearances, need to be re-conducted after these concerns come to light. 

      This case study shows the importance of Impact Assessment in biodiversity conservation

1.3 Ken – Betwa River Link Project

  • Ken-Betwa link project has been declared as National Project by the Government of India.
  • The wildlife clearance is required since the project requires diversion of forest land from core area of Panna Tiger Reserve.
  • Thewildlife clearance was given on the conditions of integration of nearby sanctuaries with the Panna Tiger Reserve to compensate loss of tiger habitat and complete ban of fresh mining lease in the area.
  • The Central Empowered Committee (CEC) of the Supreme Court is looking into the wildlife clearance given.
  • The Forest Rights Act certificates required for diversion of forest land was obtained
  • Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) recommended the Ken-Betwa Link Project (KBLP) for environmental clearance in 2016.
  • Forest clearance is required for the diversion of forest land. The Forest Appraisal Committee recommended that the loss of forest land has to be compensated by purchasing revenue or other non-forest land.
  • Thus the various clearances for Ken – Betwa link project are in the advance stages 

This case study shows that the EIA helps to understand the possible impacts and adopt methods to minimise the adverse effects even before the implementation of the project

2. Why do we need EIA?

We are facing the dilemma of choosing between development and environment. We need development, but not at the cost of environment. So we cannot go forward with the developmental projects, without knowing its environmental impacts. The idea of Environmental Impact Assessment is to study and understand the environmental effects of a development before proceeding. It helps to predict the policy or programme or project beforehand. Thus EIA is a tool for ensuring the optimal use of natural resources and sustainable development.

Image source : NIOS

Above figure clearly depicts the possible environment degradation with and without Environmental Impact Assessment for any project

EIA has to address the direct and indirect effects of the development on humans, biotic environment, soil, water, air, landscape etc. It should take into account inter-related socio-economic, cultural and human-health impacts, both beneficial and adverse.

3. Principles of EIA

The principles behind EIA can be traced to The 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. They are,

  • The rights of the people to be involved in the development of their economies
  • The responsibilities of human beings to safeguard the common environment
  • The long term economic progress is only ensured if it is linked with the protection of the environment
  • People are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature.
  • Development today must not threaten the needs of present and future generations
  • Nations have the right to exploit their own resources, but without causing environmental damage beyond their borders.
  • Environmental issues are best handled with the participation of all concerned citizens
  • The polluter should, in principle, bear the cost of pollution
  • Sustainable development requires better scientific understanding of the problems

Thus the essential principles of EIA would be-

  1. Precautionary principle – When an activity raises threats to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken, even if some cause effect relationships aren’t fully established scientifically.
  2. Polluter pays principle – Party responsible for pollution, should also be responsible for damages incurred to environment.

4. EIA process

The important aspects of EIA are:

  • Risk assessment
  • Environmental management
  • Post product monitoring

4.1 Steps in EIA

Although legislation and practice vary around the world, the fundamental components of an EIA would necessarily involve the following stages:

Stages Purpose Outcome
Screening To determine whether the project needs Impact assessment study If yes proceed to next stage
Scoping To identify the relevant potential impacts, identify alternative solutions or designs or sites which can minimise the impacts The terms of reference for the impact assessment is derived
Collection of Baseline Data[FAQ 3] To identify the environmental status of study area Gives picture of the existing conditions
Assessment and Evaluation To predict the likely impacts and a detailed elaboration of alternatives Gives the impact assessment
Preparation of EIA Report To prepare an Environmental Management Plan(EMP) and a n0n-technical summary for the public. Gives actions and steps for preventing or minimising the impacts and level of compensation for probable damage.
Review of EIA To review based on the terms of reference of scoping stage and to include public participation The views of the public and the authority are noted
Decision making Whether to approve the project or not and under what conditions Environmental clearance
Implementation and follow-up To monitor whether the predicted impacts and proposed mitigation measures occur as defined in the EMP

Verify the compliance of project with the EMP

To ensure that unpredicted impacts or failed mitigation measures are identified and addressed in a timely fashion.

Ensures optimal environmental protection throughout the lifecycle of the project

Evaluation of EIA Effectiveness and Performance

This step is not mandatory, but purpose is to improve the EIA process itself. Can identify the results and lessons of the experience and feed them back into policy action

Thus in order to carry out an environmental impact assessment, the assessment of various factors are essential.  The EIA process looks into the following components:

Environment Components looked into Predictions/Actions
Air
  • Quality
  • Wind speed and direction
  • Humidity
  • Quantity of emission from project
  • Impact of emission
  • Pollution control
  • Air quality standards
Noise
  • Noise level at present
  • Noise level due to project
  • Strategies to reduce noise
Water
  • Quality and quantity of ground and surface water resources
  • Impact on water resources
Biological
  • Flora and fauna in the zone
  • Potential damage due to project
  • Potential damage due to effluents and emission
  • Potential damage due to landscaping
  • Prediction of biological stress
  • Health Impacts
Land
  • Soil characteristics
  • Land use pattern
  • Drainage pattern
  • Impact on soil, land use and drainage

 

Socio-economic
  • Demography
  • Development needs and potential
  • Infrastructure facilities
  • Economic activities  
  • demographic impacts such as in-and-out migration rates and resultant demand for social services, hospital beds, school places, housing etc
  • community impacts including changes in social structures, organisations and relationships
  • socio-psychological impacts including changes to individual quality of life and well being, sense of security and perceptions of amenity or hazard
Cultural
  • Location and state of archaeological, historical, religious sites
  • Impact on the heritage structures
  • cultural impacts including changes to shared customs, traditions and value systems

Assessment of expected economic benefits arising out of the project have to be compared to the all the above mentioned factors. Method of carrying out the assessment and the preparation of EIA report can be summarised as follows:

4.2 Roles of different parties

EIA applies to both public and private parties. The six main players are:

(i) Those who propose the project

(ii) The environmental consultant who prepare EIA on behalf of project proponent

(iii) The Environment Control Board (State or National)

(iv) Public who has the right to express their opinion

(v) The Impact Assessment Agency

vi) The Clearance Authority

Parties Roles
Project proponent Prepare detailed project report or feasibility report

Gets no objection certificate from the pollution control board

Conducts public hearing

Environmental consultant Does EIA and prepares EMP
The Environment Control Board Issues no objection certificate

Conducts public hearing

The Public Review the EIA
The Impact Assessment Agency Evaluate the EIA

Prepare set of recommendations and conditions for implementation of project

Monitoring the project during implementation and operation

The Clearance Authority  The final authority to give environmental clearance for the projects

5. EIA in India

5.1 History

EIA was introduced in India in 1978, with respect to river valley projects. Later the EIA legislation was enhanced to include other developmental sections. EIA is now mandatory for 30 categories of projects, and these projects get Environmental Clearance (EC) only after the EIA requirement are fulfilled.

5.2 Process

  • The EIA agency has to follow the published guidelines by the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) of government of India.
  • Once an application has been submitted by a project authority along with all the requisite documents specified in the EIA Notification, it is scrutinised by the technical staff of the Ministry prior to placing it before the Environmental Appraisal Committees.
  • TheEnvironmental Appraisal Committees evaluate the impact of the project based on the data furnished by the project authorities and if necessary, site visits or on-the-spot assessment of various environmental aspects are also undertaken. Based on such examination, the Committees make recommendations for approval or rejection of the project.
  • The recommendations of the committee are then processed in the Ministry for approval or rejection.
  • In case of projects where the project proponents have submitted complete information, a decision is taken within 90 days. 
  • The six regional offices of the Ministry functioning at Shillong, Bhubaneswar, Chandigarh, Bangalore, Lucknow and Bhopal undertake monitoring of cleared projects.

5.3 Regulations for different types of projects

With a view to ensure multi-disciplinary input required for environmental appraisal of development projects, Expert Committees have been constituted for the following sectors:

  1. Mining Projects
  2. Industrial Projects
  3. Thermal Power Projects
  4. River Valley, Multipurpose, Irrigation and H.E. Projects
  5. Infrastructure Development and Miscellaneous Projects
  6. Nuclear Power Projects

5.4 Environmental Appraisal Committees

Composition of the expert committees for EIA

a. The Committees will consist of experts in the following disciplines:

  1. Eco-system management
  2. Air/ water pollution control
  3. Water resource management
  4. Flora/ fauna conservation and management
  5. Land use planning
  6. Social Sciences/ Rehabilitation
  7. Project appraisal
  8. Ecology
  9. Environmental Health
  10. Subject Area Specialists
  11. Representatives of NGOs/persons concerned with environmental issues.

b. The Chairman will be an outstanding and experienced ecologist or environmentalist or technical professional with wide managerial experience in the relevant development.

c. The representative of Impact Assessment Agency will act as a Member- Secretary.

e. The membership of a committee shall not exceed 15 members.

6. Has EIA served its objectives?

  • Even though EIA is made mandatory for several projects, many are able to circumvent or do fraud in the process, as we have seen in the above case studies 
  • There are many exemptions such as
    • EIA is exempted in cases of the projects proposed before the EIA Regulations of 2006
    • In case of hydro electric projects, only projects above 25 MW should undergo EIA studies (thus, most mini-hydel power projects in India are of below 25MW capacity to avoid the process!!)
    • New rules for Wetland management, 2016  have no mention of the need to conduct an EIA (as opposed to the 2010 rules which makes Environment Impact Assessment compulsory before undertaking any activity in a wetland area)
  • The process are often manipulated to get the clearance like no proper identification of potential impacts, compartmentalisation of project to down scale the potential impact (case study 1). Strict standards and methodology to be followed by the impact assessment agency is essential to ensure that the EIA serves its purpose.
  • The Biodiversity aspect is not properly incorporated in the EIA. Even though the biodiversity act mandates impact assessment studies for all activities which are likely to have an adverse impact on biodiversity, it is not being followed(case study 2)
  • The role of the public in the entire environment clearance process is quite limited. Public consultation happens at a very late stage when the EIA report is already prepared and the proponent is about to present it to the review committee for clearance. Also an added provision makes it possible to completely forego the public hearing process if the situation is not conducive for conducting hearing as felt by the local administration. This provision can be misused to further limit the role of the public (case study 1)
  • Issue of bureaucratic hurdles –  separate clearance are required for environment, wildlife and forest land diversion for the same project(case study 3)
  • The Baseline studies in EIA may take a long time, hence EIA is blamed for higher costs and delays in project implementation. Therefore, the studies should be focused on those aspects that are likely to be affected.

7. FAQs

1. What is special about the Bhitarkanika sanctuary?

  • Bhitarkanika is a mangrove wetland
  • The area has 3 protected Areas, namely “The Bhitarkanika National Park”, “The Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary” and “The Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary”
  • Located in the estuarine region of Brahmani- Baitrani river system
  •  The sanctuary is a breeding location for the giant salt water crocodiles
  • Gahirmatha Beach is the nesting ground of the Olive Ridley Sea – Turtles

2. NGT and its functions

  • The National Green Tribunal(NGT) has been established under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010
  • Deals with cases relating to environmental protection, conservation of forests and other natural resources
  • Deals with enforcement of any legal right relating to environment and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property
  • The Tribunal is not bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure but by principles of natural justice
  • The Tribunal works with in a time frame

3. What is meant by baseline study?

Baseline study describes the status and trends of environmental factors in the area before the project starts. The predicted changes are compared and evaluated against the baseline data. After the project starts, it helps in detecting the actual change by monitoring the present status.

4. What is Social Impact Assessment(SIA) and how is it different from EIA?

Social Impact Assessment analyse, monitors and manage the intended and unintended social consequences and social change processes, of any policies, programs, plans or projects. The EIA can include SIA also. The SIA is increasing being accepted as an important part of the EIA. In India, SIAs are mandatory for any major project since the land acquisition law (The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act) of 2013.

Hey, Don’t Ignore me!

Hi there.. We know, you just need single reading to grasp the concepts…Please prove us right.

17 Comments

  1. ashish says:

    very helpful sir

  2. AMBUJ KUMAR says:

    very helpful sir..Thanks a lot.

  3. IMDAD says:

    sir in two questions explanation says some option correct but in final correct answers are in red please if possible rectify

  4. abhishek says:

    please give correct answer. option give different and in eplation option give different.

  5. abhishek says:

    content is good and please improve your practice solution

  6. Prabhu says:

    Best site.. With amazing content… I did whole environment from here… Thank you for helping so much

  7. sanjay deora says:

    How could 1st statement of 9 ques correct? SIA is subset of EIA as per your article.

    • IES GS says:

      SIA and EIA are two different process. Some projects mandate SIA (example land acquisitions under the land acquisition act, 2013) and some others mandate EIA(as explained in the article). EIA can be a part of SIA and vice versa.

  8. Ankit says:

    Sir in question number 9.. SIA is a part of EIA as you mentioned in notes. But here answer is different. Can EIA be a part of SIA.

    • IES GS says:

      SIA and EIA are two different process. Some projects mandate SIA (example land acquisitions under the land acquisition act, 2013) and some others mandate EIA(as explained in the article). EIA can be a part of SIA and vice versa.

  9. Rahul Kumar Singh says:

    Very very helpfull.but not avilable in pdf.

  10. Chris says:

    Thank u sir

  11. Chris says:

    Sir.., plzz keep the links for previous months’ current affairs link

  12. kamran iqrar says:

    thanks …

  13. remya says:

    one stop for general studies preparation..Great site!!

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