Environmental Impact Assessment, Monitoring and related terms
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Environmental Impact Assessment
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
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
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.
Interaction matrix in EIA
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
Principles of SIA
- Involve the diverse public
- Analyze impact
- Focus on assessment
- Identify method and assumptions
- Provide feedback to project planner
- Use professionals
- Start monitoring and mitigation program.
Steps involved in SIA
- Defining the Impact Area
- Identify data requirement and their source
- Involve all affected stakeholders
- Conduct Screening
- Carry out scoping in the field
- Prepare socioeconomic profile
- Survey the host population
- Identify and assess the impact
- Develop mitigation plan