|Conducting Environmental Impact Assessment in Developing Countries (United Nations University, 1999, 375 p.)|
|3. EIA process|
|3.2 Principles in managing EIA|
Important principles in managing an EIA may be summarized as:
1. focus on the main issues;
2. involve the appropriate persons and groups;
3. link information to decisions about the project;
4. present clear options for the mitigation of impacts and for sound environmental management;
5. provide information in a form useful to the decision makers.
It is important that an EIA should not try to cover too many topics in too much detail. At the outset, the scope of the EIA should be focused on only the most likely and most serious of the possible environmental impacts. Large verbose, complex reports are unnecessary, and can be counter-productive, as the findings from the EIA may not be in a form readily accessible and immediately useful to decision makers and project planners. When mitigation measures are being suggested, the focus of the study should be only on workable, acceptable solutions to the problems. Finally, the conclusions of the EIA should be communicated in a concise form, preferably including a summary of information relevant to the needs of decision makers. Supporting data should be provided separately.
This activity of focusing on the significant issues typically constitutes the scoping exercise of the EIA process.
Another equally important point to be considered is selectivity when involving people in the EIA process. Generally, three categories of participants are needed to carry out an EIA:
• those appointed to manage and undertake the EIA process (usually a coordinator and a staff of experts);
• those who can contribute with facts, ideas, or concerns to the study, including scientists, economists, engineers, policy makers, and representatives of interested or affected groups;
• those who have direct authority to permit, control, or alter the projects, that is, the decision makers - including, for example, the developer, aid agency or investors, competent authorities, regulators, and politicians.
The key issue of this principle is ensuring public participation in the process of EIA whereby involvement of all the stakeholders in the project is ensured.
An EIA should be organized so that it directly supports the decisions that need to be taken about the proposed project. It should start early enough to provide information to improve basic designs and should progress through the several stages of project planning. As stated in Chapter 2, EIA should be handled concurrently and in an integrated way, as shown in the project cycle (see Fig. 2.2).
In a typical sequence:
• when the developer and investors first broach the project concept, they consider likely environmental issues;
• when the developer is looking for sites or routes, environmental considerations are used to aid the selection process;
• when the developer and investors are assessing the project's feasibility, EIA should be initiated to help in anticipating any concerns or problems;
• when engineers are designing the project, the EIA identifies certain standards for the design to meet;
• when a permit is requested, a complete EIA report is submitted, and published for general comment;
• when the developer implements the project, monitoring or other measures provided for in the EIA are undertaken.
The central idea of this principle is that it is essential to integrate the process of EIA into the project cycle by incorporating it right from the project-planning stage.
To help decision makers, the EIA must be designed so as to present clear choices on the planning and implementation of the project, and it should make clear the likely results of each option. For instance, to mitigate adverse impacts, the EIA could propose:
• pollution control technology or design features;
• the reduction, treatment, and/or disposal of wastes;
• compensation or concessions to affected groups.
To enhance environmental compatibility, the EIA could suggest:
• several alternative sites;
• changes to the project's design and operation (e.g., clean technology);
• limitations to its initial size or growth;
• separate programmes which contribute in a positive way to local resources or to the quality of the environment.
To ensure that the implementation of an approved project is environmentally sound, the EIA may prescribe:
• monitoring programmes or periodic impact reviews;
• contingency plans for regulatory action;
• involvement of the local community in later decisions.
This principle thus focuses on the evolution of the environmental management plan as well as a post-project monitoring plan.
The objective of an EIA is to ensure that environmental problems are foreseen and addressed by decision makers. To achieve this objective, information should be presented to decision makers in terms and formats that are immediately meaningful.
• Briefly present hard facts and predictions about impacts, comments on the reliability of this information, and summarize the consequences of each of the proposed options.
• Write in the terminology and vocabulary that is used by the decision makers and the community affected by the project.
• Present the essential findings in a concise document, supported by separate background materials were necessary.
• Make the document easy to use and provide information visually whenever possible.