Environmental Impact Assessment and Monitoring discusses technical developments and data arising from environmental monitoring and assessment, principles in the design of monitoring systems, and the use of monitoring data in assessing the consequences of natural resource management and pollution risks.
Monitoring systems estimate exposure both at the individual and population levels, and also focuses on the development of monitoring systems related to the management of various renewable natural resources in, for instance, agriculture, fisheries, and forests.
Coverage extends to the use of monitoring in pollution assessment, and particular emphasis is given to the synthesis of monitoring data with toxicological, epidemiological and health data, as well as with pre-market screening results.

High-quality research papers or reviews dealing with any aspect of environmental monitoring are encouraged. However, papers should not be submitted that do not advance scientific knowledge on environmental monitoring issues. Articles that simply replicate known knowledge or techniques and do not add anything new or unique to the science will normally be rejected.

Environmental Impact Assessment

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. In quite basic words, EIA studies the impact of aspects like urbanization, industrialization, etc. on the environment and different spheres of mother nature.
The fundamental components of an EIA would necessarily involve the following stages:
  • Screening to determine which projects or developments require a full or partial impact assessment study;
  • Scoping to identify which potential impacts are relevant to assess (based on legislative requirements, international conventions, expert knowledge and public involvement), to identify alternative solutions that avoid, mitigate or compensate adverse impacts on biodiversity (including the option of not proceeding with the development, finding alternative designs or sites which avoid the impacts, incorporating safeguards in the design of the project, or providing compensation for adverse impacts), and finally to derive terms of reference for the impact assessment;
  • Assessment and evaluation of impacts and development of alternatives, to predict and identify the likely environmental impacts of a proposed project or development, including the detailed elaboration of alternatives;
  • Reporting the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) or EIA report, including an environmental management plan (EMP), and a non-technical summary for the general audience.
  • Review of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), based on the terms of reference (scoping) and public (including authority) participation.
  • Decision-making on whether to approve the project or not and under what conditions; and
  • Monitoring, compliance, enforcement and environmental auditing. Monitor whether the predicted impacts and proposed mitigation measures occur as defined in the EMP. Verify the compliance of proponent with the EMP, to ensure that unpredicted impacts or failed mitigation measures are identified and addressed in a timely fashion.

Goals of EIA

The EIA is a means of avoiding environmental disturbances that are always much more expensive to correct after their occurrence than before. It is also important to underline that very few projects have been deemed not viable merely because of the cost of pollution control and that modern environmental control, in a new plant, is less than 3% of the initial investment.

Classification of EIA

EIA can be classified based on the purpose and the theme of development. and also categorized based on the systematic analysis of environmental parameters, geographical region, carrying capacity limitations and sectoral planning. 

Strategic EIA

Strategic EIA refers to the systematic analysis of the environmental effects of development policies, plans, programs, and other proposed strategic actions. This process extends the aims and principles of EIA upstream in the decision- making the process, beyond the project level and when major alternatives are still open. Strategic EIA represents a proactive approach to integrate environmental considerations into a higher level of decision-making.

Regional EIA

EIA in the context of regional planning integrates environmental concerns into development planning for a geographic region, normally at the sub-country level. Such an approach is referred to as the economic-cum- environmental (EcE) development planning. This approach facilitates adequate integration of economic development with the management of renewable natural resources within the carrying capacity limitation to achieve sustainable development.

It fulfills the need for macro-level environmental integration, which the project-oriented EIA is unable to address effectively. Regional EIA addresses the environmental impacts of regional development plans and thus, the context for project-level EIA of the subsequent projects, within the region. In addition, if environmental effects are considered at a regional level. Then cumulative environmental effects of all the projects within the region can be accounted for.

Sectoral EIA

Instead of project-level-EIA, an EIA should take place in the context of regional and sectoral level planning. Once sectoral level development plans have the integrated sectoral environmental concerns addressed, the scope of project-level EIA will be quite narrow. Sectoral EIA will help to address specific environmental problems that may be encountered in planning and implementing sectoral development projects.

Project Level EIA

Project level EIA refers to the developmental activity in isolation and the impacts that it exerts on the receiving environment. Thus, it may not effectively integrate the cumulative effects of the development in a region.

Methods used in EIA

A successful process of EIA requires the officials to employ various mathematical and digital methods to monitor and assess all areas of concern involved in the project in hand. The most common methods used during EIA can be remembered as ACMNO:

  • Ad-hoc method
  • Checklist method
  • Matrix method
  • Network method
  • Overlay method

There is some specific characteristic which an EIA methodology should depict.

  • It should be appropriate to the necessary task of EIA process such as impact
    identification/comparison of alternatives.
  • It should be significantly free from assessors bias
  • It should be economical in terms of costs, and its requirement of data, investigating time,
    personnel, equipment, and facilities.

The ultimate objective of a method should be to carry out

  • IMPACT IDENTIFICATION
  • IMPACT PREDICTION
  • IMPACT EVALUATION

Ad-hoc method

  • A simple method based on a subjective environment
    impacts on broad aspects.
  • Ad hoc method is useful when time constraints and lack of information requires that the EIA must rely exclusively on expert opinion.
  • It provides minimal guidance for total impact assessment while suggesting the broad areas of
    possible impacts and the general nature of these possible impacts.
  • When more scientific methods are available, it is not recommended.

Types of Ad-hoc methods

  • Opinion polls
  • Experts opinion
  • Delphi methods

ADVANTAGES

Specialists in a particular area will provide guidance.

DISADVANTAGES

  • It requires an expert
  • Short/long term impact is merely examined on guess basis.
  • Identification, prediction, and interpretation of impacts are quite poor

Checklist method in EIA

There are many methods by which we can assess the impact of a developmental project on our site and its various components. The simplest of these methods are checklists. Checklists were too primitive to be used for large-scale projects. A step higher from the checklists is the matrices form of impact assessment in EIA.
It is a listing of potential Environmental Impacts. This method is done to assess the nature of the impacts i.e. its type such as adverse /beneficial, short term or long term, no effect or significant impact, reversible or irreversible, etc.
Types of Checklist methods
  • Simple Lists
  • Descriptive Checklists
  • Scaling Checklists
  • Questionnaire Checklists

ADVANTAGES

  • Simple to understand and use
  • Good for site selection and priority setting

DISADVANTAGES

  • Do not distinguish between direct and
    indirect impacts
  • Do not link action and impact
  • Sometimes it is a cumbersome task

Matrix method in EIA

A matrix is considered to be a more systematic approach to assessing and monitoring all the aspects of the project in hand as compared to the checklist method. In a matrix, the activities linked to the project are listed on one axis: raw material production, building construction, water supply, energy supply, raw material preparation, pulp, and paper mills processing, gaseous emissions, liquid effluents, cooling water discharges, noise, solid wastes treatment and disposal, transportation.

Leopold Matrix

The Leopold matrix is the best-known matrix methodology available for predicting the impact of a project on the environment. It is a two-dimensional matrix cross-referencing, which means that:

  • The activities linked to the project that is supposed to have an impact on man and the environment.
  • The existing environmental and social conditions that could possibly be affected by the project.
The Leopold matrix is a very effective tool for monitoring the “Direct” impacts of various aspects or risk elements of the project on the Environment. However, it fails to analyze indirect aspects that are considered significant for a complete assessment of the project.

Interaction matrix

The inability to detect indirect impacts systematically and understand them easily was a big drawback of the Leopold matrix. To overcome this, Environment Canada proposed a different form of a matrix in 1974. This was called the component interaction matrix.
Here, instead of taking activities on the horizontal axis and environmental components on the vertical axis, both axes listed environmental components. So, if two components were seen to be linked by secondary or tertiary interactions, they would be marked by 1, 2, etc. And if they are not impacted by multiple levels of interactions, they would be marked zero.

Why the matrix method is better than the checklist method?

There are a set of valuable reasons as to why the matrix method is considered to be better

  • Checklists tend to be long and also requires a lot of work in describing an impact or writing it out in words. In matrices, this ambiguity and extra work are removed by introducing a quantitative aspect in the assessment of an impact.
  • Checklist tends to get confusing when you assess multiple levels of impacts descriptively. This is resolved in matrices, to an extent, with the help of customized matrices.
  • Matrices are also versatile, as they can be used for small and large-scale projects alike.
  • Matrices can be applied in medium to large scale projects where the number of developmental activities is many (up to 100). This will obviously result in effects on many environmental aspects. All of these cannot be covered easily in checklists.
  • Matrices are flexible, which is why they have been accepted and used the world over. It is perfectly acceptable to customize the matrix according to the project at hand.

ADVANTAGES

  • Link action to impact
  • A good method for displaying EIA results

DISADVANTAGES

  • Difficult to distinguish direct and indirect impacts
  • Significant potential for double-counting of impacts
  • Qualitative

Network method

It uses the matrix approach by extending it take into account primary as well the secondary impacts. Data is shown in the form of a tree called Relevance/Impact tree/Sequence diagram. Helps in the identification of direct, indirect /short and long term environmental impact is a crucial and intact basic step of making Impact tree. The method is widely used to identify cause-effect linkages.

ADVANTAGES

  • Links action to impact
  • Useful in simplified form in checking for second-order impacts
  • Handles direct and indirect impacts

DISADVANTAGES

  • Can become overly complex if used beyond simplified version
  • Qualitative

Overlay method

Rely on a set of maps of a project area’s environmental characteristics covering physical, social, ecological, aesthetic aspects. Separate mapping of critical environmental features
at the same scale as the project’s site plan.

  • Older Technique: environmental features are mapped on transparent plastic in different colors.
  • Newer Technique: Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

ADVANTAGES

  • Easy to understand and use
  • Good display method
  • Good for site selection setting

DISADVANTAGE

  • Address only direct impacts
  • Do not address impact duration or probability