Purposes of environmental, social and economic impact assessment

By the end of the lecture you should be able to:
  1. Define the following concepts: environment; social; economic, assessment and impact
  2. Give an overview of the purpose of environmental, social and economic impact as



What is EIA?
"An important procedure for ensuring that the likely effects of new development on the environment are fully understood and taken into account before the development is allowed to go ahead."
(DETR and National Assembly for Wales, 1999)

Environmental impact assessment is, in its simplest form, a planning tool that is now generally regarded as an integral component of sound decision making... As a planning tool it has both an information gathering and decision making component which provides the decision maker with an objective basis for granting or denying approval for a proposed development.
Justice La Forest, Friends of the Oldman v. Canada et al. (1991)

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) may be defined as a formal process used to predict the environmental consequences of any development project. EIA thus ensures that the potential problems are foreseen and addressed at an early stage in the projects planning and design.
Manu and Anshu, UEMRI-India

EIA Definitions ... a process or set of activities designed to contribute pertinent environmental information to project or programme decision making. ... a process which attempts to identify, predict and assess the likely consequences of proposed development activities. ... a planning aid concerned with identifying, predicting and assessing impacts arising from proposed activities such as policies, programmes, plans and development projects which may affect the environment. ... a basic tool for the sound assessment of development proposals to determine the potential environmental, social and health effects of a proposed development

The purpose of the environmental assessment process is: (a) to support the goals of environmental protection and sustainable development. (b) to integrate environmental protection and economic decisions at the earliest stages of planning an activity. (c) to predict environmental, social, economic, and cultural consequences of a proposed activity and to assess plans to mitigate any adverse impacts resulting from the proposed activity, and (d) to provide for the involvement of the public, department of the Government and Government agencies in the review of the proposed activities.
Alberta Environmental Assessment and Enhancement Act (38)

Balanced assessment of effects on the environment should encompass a number of considerations. Depending on the nature, scope and significance of the project or proposalthe assessment may include consideration of ecological, economic, cultural, aesthetic, healthand safety, social and amenity impacts in relation to decisions on the sustainable managementof natural and physical resources.
A Guide to Health Impact Assessment

Environmental Impact Assessment is a planning tool that its main purpose is: "to give the environment its due place in the decision making process by clearly evaluating the environmental consequences of a proposed activity before action is taken. The concept has ramifications in the long run for almost all development activity because sustainable development depends on protecting the natural resources which is the foundation for further development"
Alan Gilpin (1995) Environmental Impact Assessment - Cutting Edge for the twenty-first century, Cambridge University Press.

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a tool used to identify the environmental, social and economic impacts of a project prior to decision-making. It aims to predict environmental impacts at an early stage in project planning and design, find ways and means to reduce adverse impacts, shape projects to suit the local environment and present the predictions and options to decision-makers. By using EIA both environmental and economic benefits can be achieved, such as reduced cost and time of project implementation and design, avoided treatment/clean-up costs and impacts of laws and regulations.
The key elements of an EIA are (a) Scoping: identify key issues and concerns of interested parties; (b) Screening: decide whether an EIA is required based on information collected; (c) Identifying and evaluating alternatives: list alternative sites and techniques and the impacts of each; (d) Mitigating measures dealing with uncertainty: review proposed action to prevent or minimise the potential adverse effects of the project; and (e) Issuing environmental statements: report the findings of the EIA.

What is it really?
Environmental Impact Assessment is a process, set down as a repeatable series of steps to be taken, to allow the environmental consequences of a proposed development to be assessed.
The environmental consequences have to be those INCREMENTAL effects which are due to the proposed development, and not those which are due to the passage of time or other developments not included in the proposal.

Origins and history of EIA
  • 1960s witnessed the emergence of environmentalism (e.g. publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson in 1962)
  • First formal system of EIA established in the US following the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969
  • NEPA sought to ensure that environmental concerns were considered in the decision-making of Federal Government agencies
  • Section 102(2)(c) required agencies to prepare a detailed statement on the environmental impact of “proposals for legislation and other major Federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment”
  • The statment - refrered to as an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) - should include details on any adverse environmental effects which cannot be avoided should the proposal be implemented alternatives to the proposed action.
  • Since 1969 a host of other countries have adopted EIA legislations.
  • In 1977 the European commission began drafting a directive on EIA and Finally published a proposal in 1980.
  • Directive 85/337/EEC on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment – the ‘EIA Directive’ was adopted in July 1985 and Member States had until 3 July 1988 to implement its requirements
The EIA Directive
  • The EIA Directive requires projects likely to have significant effects on the environment by virtue of their nature, size or location to undergo an environmental assessment before the competent authority in question grants consent

  • The EIA Directive was amended in 1997 (Directive 97/11/EC). Following signature of the ‘Aarhus Convention’ on 25 June 1998, Directive 2003/35/EC was adopted which amends amongst others the EIA Directive and brings it into line with the public participation requirements of the Aarhus Convention
  • The EIA Directive defines a project as the execution of construction works or of other installations or schemes, other interventions in the natural surroundings and landscape including those involving the extraction of mineral resources
The EIA should identify, describe and assess the direct and indirect effects of a project on the following factors: human beings, fauna and flora; soil, water, air, climate and the landscape; material assets and cultural heritage; the interaction between the above factors. EIA should therefore have a strong social dimension.
Various guideline on EIA are available. The main steps are as follows:
  • Preliminary activities include the selection of a coordinator for the EIA and the collection of background information. This should be undertaken as soon as a project has been identified.
  • Impact identification involves a broad analysis of the impacts of project activities with a view to identifying those which are worthy of a detailed study.
  • Baseline study entails the collection of detailed information and data on the condition of the project area prior to the project's implementation.
  • Impact evaluation should be done whenever possible in quantitative terms and should include the working-out of potential mitigation measures. Impact evaluation cannot proceed until project alternative has been defined, but should be completed early enough to permit decisions to be made in a timely fashion.
  • Assessment involves combining environmental losses and gains with economic costs and benefits to procedure a complete account to each project alternative. Cost-benefit analysis should include environmental impacts where these can be evaluated in monetary terms(see Economic Analysis section).
  • Documentation is prepared to described to the work done in the EIA. A working document is prepared to provide clearly stated and argued recommendations for immediate action. The working document should contain a list of project alternative with comments on the environmental and economic impacts of each.
  • Decision-making begins when the working document reaches the decision maker, who will either accept one of the project alternatives, request further study or reject the proposed action altogether.
  • Post audits are made to determine how close to reality the EIA predictions were.

**Environmental Social and Economic Impact Assessment**