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close this bookConducting Environmental Impact Assessment in Developing Countries (UNU, 1999, 375 pages)
close this folder4. EIA methods
close this folder4.2.1 Descriptive checklists
View the document(introduction...)
View the document4.2.2 Weighted-scale checklists
View the document4.2.3 Advantages of the checklist method
View the document4.2.4 Limitations of the checklist method


The purpose of a descriptive checklist is to provide a list of important issues for the purpose of identification and scoping.

One of the simplest forms of the checklists is the one with project-specific questions. Box 4.1 shows an example of a checklist developed by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) in assessing industrial projects. One must be careful of the questionnaire-type checklists where the answers can be "yes'' or "no''. These discourage thinking and may provide a false sense of assessment. If questions are asked, they should be phrased such as "to what extent?'', "under what conditions?'' and "in what ways?'' rather than simply "does A result in B?''. However, the questionnaire-based checklists can serve as a good starting point for the purpose of project screening.

Figure 4.1 Three examples of the systems approach for EIA

Source: How to Assess Environmental Impacts on Tropical Islands and Coastal Areas. A Training Manual prepared for the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme by R. A. Carpenter, J. E. Maragos. Published by Environment and Policy Institute, East-West Center, Hawaii, 1989.

Checklists can be also developed based on issues. The issues can be later graded to identify those of significance based on the project and environment features, i.e., relevance. Issues of high significance can be later decomposed into responsible "activities'' and "components of concern'' to develop mitigation, protection, and monitoring measures in the succeeding levels of an EIA. Box 4.2 shows an illustration of an issue-based checklist developed for projects on power development. The issue-based checklists thus assist in the exercise of scoping and IEE.

Box 4.1 Application of checklist for initial screening of industrial projects (NORAD)

Environmental impacts often tend to appear in the form of chains of cause and effect. If the first link in the chain is revealed, the subsequent impacts will also be uncovered. In order to reduce the number of questions in each checklist, the questions are most often related to the first link in the chain.

Industrial project

This will include all industrial projects involving a sizeable consumption of natural resources and/or increasing pollution. Thermal power plants are also included in this category. The project should be submitted to a more detailed assessment if it fulfils one or more of the criteria set out below, or if insufficient information is available to answer "no" with a reasonable degree of certainty.

Will the project:

1. Lead to substantial pollution of water, air, or soil?

2. Create waste disposal problems?

3. Affect areas which support animal and plant life worthy of protection or affect an especially vulnerable ecosystem?

4. Affect areas with historic remains or landscape elements which are of importance to the population?

5. Create a risk of accidents which may have serious consequences for the local population and the natural environment?

6. Change the way of life of the local population in such a way that it leads to considerably increased pressure on the natural resource base?

7. Lead to major conflicts with regard to existing land use and ownership of land?

8. Obstruct, or lead to considerable changes in the local population's exploitation or use of natural resources other than those directly affected by the project

Descriptive checklists can also be exhaustive to capture the impacts during the various stages of the project and to provide a format for the assessor to identify obvious mitigations. Here, the checklist can be used for the purpose of scoping and IEE. Box 4.3 presents an example of a detailed checklist developed by the ADB for fisheries and aquaculture projects.