The stages of EIA can be broken down as:
The first step is to define a project and study all the likely activities involved in its process so as to understand the range and reach of the project. This helps in deciding the possible zones of environmental impacts and in understanding the area a project would cover and the resources it would use and affect.
The EIA procedure starts at the very beginning of a project. After a developer has recognised a need and evaluated all feasible project design and site choices in order to choose a preferred option, two essential questions must be asked: ‘What will be the environmental impacts of this development?’ Is the magnitude of such impacts significant?’ An EIA may be necessary if the response to the second question is affirmative. This screening is an essential step in the process of an EIA for if the answer to the second question is ‘no’ then the entire process of EIA becomes unnecessary. The output of the screening process is a document known as “Initial Environmental Examination or Evaluation (IEE)”, based on which the decision is taken whether an EIA is needed and if so, to what extent.
Scoping is the process of identifying the most critical environmental concerns, and it is perhaps the most crucial phase in an EIA. The scope or range of the EIA report is referred to as scoping. It examines the project’s impact on the environment, including air, water, soil, noise, air quality, and physical impact. It identifies issues and concerns, determines evaluation methodologies, identifies affected parties, and encourages public engagement in order to reach a consensus on contentious matters. All stakeholders, including project beneficiaries, local people, business sectors, NGOs, scientists, and others, are involved in public engagement. It is a continuous process that will most likely continue over the project’s planning and design phases. Scoping is essential because it allows for adjustments to be made to the project early in its life cycle and guarantees that all relevant issues are investigated. At this point, you have the choice of cancelling or amending the project. There is limited room for substantial adjustments to the project after it has passed this stage.
- IMPACT PREDICTION
Impact Prediction is a way of ‘mapping’ the environmental consequences of the significant aspects of the project and its alternatives.
There are two steps in impact prediction:
Identification of the impacts would have been initiated in the scoping stage itself. These initial identifications may be confirmed and new ones are added as and when the investigations reveal.
2. Prediction of Impacts:
Prediction of impacts is both qualitative and quantitative. The scale and severity of an impact is determined by whether it is reversible or irreversible. If the impact is reversible, then it may be taken as low impact. If the adverse impact cannot be reversed then the impact is said to be high.
They even take into consideration the possible time period for which the impact may affect the environment and divide it into short-, medium- and long-term impacts.
The evaluation of impacts frequently reveals negative environmental consequences. Mitigation techniques may help to reduce these issues. Mitigation is taking steps to lessen or eliminate environmental effects, and the iterative nature of the EIA process is well shown here. For example, good mitigation measure design may result in the elimination of all major effects; hence, a fresh screening exercise may reveal that a formal EIA would not have been required if mitigation measures had been incorporated from the start.
- PREPARING OF RESULTS OF ASSESSMENT
An EIA usually results in a formal document called an environmental impact statement (EIS), which contains factual information about the development as well as all of the information gathered about screening, scoping, baseline study, impact prediction and assessment, mitigation, and monitoring measures. It is quite usual for an EIS to include a non-technical summary as a requirement. This is very important, as EISs are public documents intended to inform the public of the nature and likely consequences of a development in time to comment and/or participate in the final project design.
- PUBLIC HEARING
After the completion of EIA report the law requires that the public must be informed and consulted on a proposed development after the completion of EIA report. Any one likely to be affected by the proposed project is entitled to have access to the executive summary of the EIA.
The affected person may include:
- Bonafide local residents;
- Local associations;
- Environmental groups active in the area
- Any other person located at the project site/ sites of displacement
They are to be given an opportunity to make oral/written suggestions to the State Pollution Control Board as per Schedule IV of the act.
Following the public hearing the suggestions are collected and considered. Suggestions which are considered as valid are inserted and the final report is produced.
- SUBMISSION OF FINAL REPORT TO THE RELEVANT BODIES
The EIS is submitted to the relevant authorities once the EIA is completed. This is the body in charge of approving or rejecting development applications. The competent authorities are frequently in a situation where they have little time to make a judgement and must read through a thorough and long EIS that may contain mistakes, omissions, and developer bias. As a result, it is critical that they study the paper. Review can take several forms: it can be ad hoc, with decision-makers reading and commenting on the document; it can be more formalised, with expert opinion sought; or it can be done using formal review procedures created expressly for the purpose. The competent authority is now in possession of the information they require about the possible effects of the development on the environment. They will use this information, in combination with all of the other details and representations they have received, to help them come to a decision and after thoroughly reviewing the EIS, they give consent or do not give consent for a project.
- MONITORING OF THE PROJECT
Once a project is approved, then it should function as per the conditions stipulated based on environmental clearance. These conditions have to be strictly monitored and implemented. Monitoring should be done during both construction and operation phases of a project. This is not only to ensure that the commitments made are complied with, but also to observe whether the predictions made in the EIA reports were correct or not. This is the most efficient way to ensure that no damage is done to the environment.
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