A successful EIA is dependent on five key factors, which seem to have relevance wherever EIA is applied. These relate to timing, personnel, scoping, information, and monitoring.
Timing. It is important to integrate environmental impact assessment at an early stage of project planning. Where it is seen as an extra or as 'add-on' to projects which already have been determined on the basis of their engineering, technical, and economical feasibility, it can perhaps suggest mitigation measures, but can have no real effect on the project design. When integrated early in project planning it can result in projects with built-in mitigation which is designed to minimize negative effects and maximize benefits.
Personnel. The success of an environmental assessment is very much dependent on the individual, or team, responsible for preparing it. In view of the great diversity of project and program types to which assessment has been and can be applied, it is difficult to determine an ideal profile for an 'EIA preparer' which would fit every situation. Some type of project can be assessed adequately by a single person with the right qualification and experience working together with host government officials and local experts over a short period of time. Other projects demand interdisciplinary team of experts to carry out extensive field investigations and data gathering.
Scoping. A crucial task in carrying out environmental assessment is to identify, early in project planning, the most significant, serious, environmental impact associated with a project and the reasonable alternatives available for constructing the project in an environmentally sound manner. Scoping is a procedure for accomplishing these tasks.
Information. The need for reliable data and information is a common theme. Where an adequate database is missing it becomes particularly important to work closely with local universities, research institutes, and the affected public to obtain an insight existing environmental conditions. The time and expense involved in 'starting from scratch' makes it advisable to tie data gathering to the major environmental impacts identified during scoping.
Monitoring. An important lesson to be learnt from experience with environmental assessment is the need for monitoring of environmental impacts. Also the need of auditing completed projects not only as a sound management measure, but also as a means of testing the accuracy of the environmental assessment, is important part of EIA process. Knowledge of, for example, which impacts proved to be significant and which did not can result in the improved scoping of future projects.
See also: Anthropospheric and Anthropogenic Impact on the Biosphere; Ecological Economics 1; Ecological Health Indicators; Ecological Risk Assessment; Environmental Impact Assessment and Application - Part 2; Environmental Protection and Ecology; Environmental Space; Sustainable Development.
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