General Studies Paper 3 (Ecology & Environment): Environmental Impact Assessment


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Syllabus: General Studies Paper 3 (Ecology & Environment)


What are the Objectives of Environmental Impact Assessment in India also trace the issues involved and suggest suitable measures.



EIA is a tool to anticipate the likely environmental impacts that may arise out of the proposed developmental activities and suggest mitigation measures and strategies. EIA was introduced in India in 1978, with respect to river valley projects. Later the EIA legislation was enhanced to include other developmental sections since 1941.EIA comes under Notification on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of developmental projects 1994 under the provisions of Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. EIA is now mandatory for 30 categories of projects, and these projects get Environmental Clearance (EC) only after the EIA requirements are fulfilled.



Objectives of EIA:

The principal objective of EIA is to ensure that the development is sustained with minimal environmental degradation. Adverse effects on environment should be minimized by incorporating suitable measures in the project planning itself on the basis of predictions regarding environmental degradation on account of project operation. The Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India, has been assigned the responsibility for appraisal of projects with regards to their future environmental implications.

Three primary objectives of EIA

  • EIA predicts the likely environmental impacts of projects.
  • It presents these predictions and options to decision-makers.
  • It finds ways to reduce unacceptable impacts to shape the project so that it suits the local environment.


Issues Related to EIA:

  • The EIA  experience  in  India  indicates  that  the  lack  of  timely  availability  of reliable  and  authentic  environmental  data  has  been  a  major  bottle  neck  in achieving the  full  benefits  of  EIA.
  • The environment  being  a  multi-disciplinary subject, a multitude of agencies  is  involved in collection of environmental data.
  • However, no  single  organization  in  India  tracks  available  data  from  these agencies and make it available in one place in a form required by environmental impact assessment practitioners.
  • Further, environmental data is not available in enhanced forms that  improve the  quality  of  the    This  makes  it harder  and  more  time-consuming  to  generate  EIAs  and  receive  timely  environmental clearances from regulators.
  • In some instances where public participation is required by EIA legislation, such participation could be limited in practice. For example, the law in India required that a  public hearing  is conducted;  however, NGOs  often considered  the public  hearing as  staged  process  that  appeared  to  involve  citizens  when  the  decision had already been made.
  • When the EIA is linked to the licensing process,  it  may become a tool for  rent-seeking and could be a source of illegal influence on the responsible authorities.
  • Environmental decision-making processes for development projects are supposed to use the best available scientific knowledge to ensure that development does not lead to negative impacts.
  • But there are compromised decision-making on development and infrastructure projects.
  • Sometimes the EIA reports lack the expected degrees of honesty, owing to bias, corruption, exaggeration and wrong claims.
  • EIA reports for the approved “redevelopment” projects in Delhi were prepared by copying from copyrighted papers, web-pages and other EIA reports.
  • There are many instances of missing or misleading information which understate the potential impact of the projects.
  • Many projects are approved without public consultation.
  • Lack of awareness among the local people about the process of EIA, its significance for them, their own rights and responsibilities.
  • Most of the time EIA reports are unavailable in local languages, thus local people are unable to decipher the reports, and are misled by the proponents.


Way Forward:

  • Competent authorities must ensure that a project causes minimal adverse environmental impact and generates maximum social and economic benefits.
  • Involving affected people and concerned citizens in environmental decision-making has far reaching effects.
  • It allows for democratising environmental governance.
  • Participatory processes give opportunities to understand and plan for unforeseen effects.
  • In 2009, the Delhi High Court in Utkarsh Mandal v/s Union of India upheld that it is the duty of the EACs to consider the merits of the objections raised at the public hearings.
  • Women and other vulnerable sections of the society are the first and most affected by consequences of developmental processes and damage to the environment.
  • Adverse impacts of development projects can be reduced with the full and equal participation of both genders, particularly women in decision-making processes.
  • NGOs, civil society groups and local communities need to build their capacities to use the EIA notification towards better decision making on projects.



An EIA should not be used just as a means for obtaining an environmental clearance; rather, project proponents should use it as a management tool to assess the soundness of a project plan.  The focus of EIA needs to shift from utilization and exploitation of natural resources to conservation of natural resources.


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