Environmental Impact Assessment, Monitoring and related terms

Published by Arijit Samajdar on

Environmental Impact Assessment
Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 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.

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 are:

  • Checklist method
  • Matrix method

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.

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 in EIA

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 in EIA

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 matrix method is better than 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.

Social Impact Assessment

Social Impact Assessment (SIA). It is a methodology to review the social effects of infrastructure projects and other development interventions. Although SIA is usually applied to planned interventions, the same techniques can be used to evaluate the social impact of unplanned events, for example, disasters, demographic change, and epidemics.
SIA has been incorporated into the formal planning and approval processes in several countries, in order to categorize and assess how major developments may affect populations, groups, and settlements.
The origins of SIA largely derive from the environmental impact assessment (EIA) model, which first emerged in the 1970s in the U.S, as a way to assess the impacts on society of certain development schemes and projects before they go ahead – for example, new roads, industrial facilities, mines, dams, ports, airports, and other infrastructure projects.

Principles of SIA

Every systematic procedure in today’s world requires a set of principles and assumptions to be followed so that the assessment begins with a successful note. Principles of SIA involve the following 7 points:
  1. Involve the diverse public
  2. Analyze impact
  3. Focus on assessment
  4. Identify method and assumptions
  5. Provide feedback to project planner
  6. Use professionals
  7. Start monitoring and mitigation program.

Steps involved in SIA

SIA includes the following important steps:
  1. Defining the Impact Area
  2. Identify data requirement and their source
  3. Involve all affected stakeholders
  4. Conduct Screening
  5. Carry out scoping in the field
  6. Prepare socioeconomic profile
  7. Survey the host population
  8. Identify and assess the impact
  9. Develop mitigation plan

Arijit Samajdar

Creator and Editor-In-Chief of "Envibrary". Budding Environmentalist, Freelance Content Writer, Musician, and, Moody Photographer.

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