Environmental impact assessment (EIA) was developed as a tool to minimize negative impact of human activities on the environment. The purpose of the environmental impact assessment is to
• assess the impact of a proposed activity on the environment before making the decision on whether to carry it out, and
• develop and assess measures to avoid or minimize those impacts if it is decided to carry out the activity.
EIA can be defined as a process of collecting information about environmental impacts of a proposed project and consequent relevant decision-making. EIAs also consider aspects such as project alternatives and mitigation measures which should be applied if the project is allowed. History of EIA is almost 40 years long. During this time EIA has developed as a complex tool, which helps in decision-making in the case of proposed projects and helps to identify variation of the projects which will have a minimal impact on the environment in case of acceptable cost. The process of EIA comprises a number of different stages such as screening, scoping, reviewing, and completion. These stages of EIA may be labeled differently in different parts of the world, but their goals are similar. In the EIA process, a range of organizations may be involved, including government agencies, developers, nongovernmental, and public organizations. The level of involvement may vary significantly depending on the type of project that is assessed.
A detailed introduction to EIA is provided in Environmental Impact Assessment and Application - Part 1.
Figure 1 shows the general structure of the EIA process, which should be followed while preparing environmental impact statement (EIS) for all types of projects.
The main goal of this article is to provide a broad understanding of the EIA process, for example, of hydropower dam and bridge construction projects. It provides direction on the scope of the EIA, but it is not an EIA by itself. The presentation of a detailed documentation of an EIA is beyond the scope of this book.
The nature and practicality of EIAs will vary. Approaches will vary between countries and between local areas within countries. What may be significant issues in one case may not be considered significant within another jurisdiction. Accordingly, the examples in this article are provided as indicative of approaches to these categories of projects. It is imperative that engineers, planners, and scientists undertaking EIAs consult their national and/or local EIA legislation and guidelines.
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