Environment Impact Assessment Process in India and the Drawbacks

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  • Topic: Environmental impact assessment, Impact assessment, National Environmental Policy Act
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ENVIRONMENT IMPACT ASSESSMENT PROCESS IN INDIA AND THE DRAWBACKS Prepared by – Environment Conservation Team
(Aruna Murthy, Himansu Sekhar Patra) September 2005

Vasundhara, 15, Sahid Nagar Bhubaneshwar – 751 007

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ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT PROCESS IN INDIA AND THE DRAW BACKS INTRODUCTION
EIA is an exercise to be carried out before any project or major activity is undertaken to ensure that it will not in any way harm the environment on a short term or long term basis. Any developmental endeavor requires not only the analysis of the need of such a project, the monetary costs and benefits involved but most important, it requires a consideration and detailed assessment of the effect of a proposed development on the environment. The environment impact process was introduced with the purpose of identifying /evaluating the potential beneficial and adverse impacts of development projects on the environment, taking in to account environmental, social, cultural and aesthetic considerations. All of these considerations are critical to determine the viability of a project and to decide if a project should be granted environmental clearance. An EIA concentrate on problems, conflicts and natural resource constraints which might affect the viability of a project. It also predicts how the project could harm to people, their homeland, their livelihoods, and the other nearby developmental activities. After predicting potential impacts, the EIA identifies measures to minimize the impacts and suggests ways to improve the project viability. The aim of an EIA is to ensure that potential impacts are identified and addressed at an early stage in the projects planning and design. To achieve this aim, the assessment finding are communicated to all the relevant groups who will make decisions about the proposed projects, the project developers and their investors as well as regulators , planners and the politicians. Having read the conclusions of an environmental impact assessment, project planners and engineers can shape the project so that its benefits can be achieved and sustained with out causing adverse impacts. In recent years, major projects have encountered serious difficulties because insufficient account has been taken of their relationship with the surrounding environment. Some projects have been found to be unsustainable because of resource depletion. Others have been abandoned because of public opposition, financially encumbered by unforeseen costs, held liable for damages to natural resources and even been the cause of disastrous accidents. Given this experience, it is very risky to undertake finance, or approve a major project without first taking in to account its environmental consequences and then siting and designing the project so as to minimize adverse impacts. Due to public pressure on the government to accept accountability for the activities of its agencies the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was formed in USA during 1970. This was the basis for the development of a mechanism which came to be known as Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

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THE EIA PROCESS IN INDIA
The role for EIA was formally recognized at the earth summit held at Rio conference in 1992. Principle 17 of the Rio declaration states that – “EIA as a national instrument shall be undertaken for the proposed activities that are likely to have significant adverse impact on the environment and are subject to a decision of a competent national authority”. In India many of the developmental projects till as recently as the 1980s were implemented with very little or no environmental concerns. The environmental issues began receiving attention when a national committee on environmental planning and coordination was set up under the 4th five year plan (19691978). Till 1980, the subjects of environment and forests were the concern of the Dept of Science and Technology and Ministry of Agriculture respectively. Later, the issues were...
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