Environmental Impact Assessment
This section very briefly presents an overview of the stages of EIA to help place them in the context of the whole process. More detail about each stage is provided later.
EIA Registration and Screening
The EIA process begins from the very start of a project. Once a developer has identified a need and assessed all the possible alternatives of project design and sites to select a preferred alternative, two important questions must be asked: 'What will be the effects of this development on the environment? Are those effects significant?' If the answer to the second question is 'yes', an EIA may be required. Answering this question is a process known as screening and can be an essential first step into a formal EIA.
The EIA process is, it must be stressed, iterative. This is demonstrated at this early stage of screening where the requirement for a formal EIA and its associated cost implications can lead the developer to reassess the project design with a view to reducing the significant impacts to a level where an EIA is not legally required
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Site Verification Exercise and scoping exercise
At the Site verification exercise, Crowder team and the Federal Ministry of Environment jointly evaluates the potential impact of environmental liabilities on investments with records reviews, site reconnaissance, investigations and interviews.
Where it is decided that a formal EIA is required, the next stage is to define the issues that need to be addressed, that is, those impacts that have a significant effect on the environment. This is known as scoping and is essential for focusing the available resources on the relevant issues.
The next phase involves the assessment of the identified impacts - impact assessment. This requires interpretation of the importance or significance of the impacts to provide a conclusion, which can ultimately be used by decision-makers in determining the fate of the project application.
Impact Mitigation Monitoring (IMM)
Frequently, the assessment of impacts will reveal damaging effects upon the environment. These may be alleviated by mitigation measures. Mitigation involves taking measures to reduce or remove environmental impacts and it can be seen that the iterative nature of the EIA process is well demonstrated here. For example, successful design of mitigation measures could possibly result in the removal of all significant impacts; hence a new screening exercise would reveal that there might have been no need to carry out a formal EIA had the mitigation measures been included from the start.
Producing the environmental impact statement
The outcome of an EIA is usually a formal document, known as an environmental impact statement (EIS), which sets out factual information relating to the development, and all the information gathered relating to screening, scoping, baseline study, impact prediction and assessment, mitigation, and monitoring measures. It is quite common that a requirement of an EIS is that it also produces a non-technical summary. This is a summary of the information contained within the EIS, presented in a concise non-technical format, for those who do not wish to read the detailed documents. 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.
Follow up relates to the post-approval phase of EIA and encompasses monitoring of impacts, the continued environmental management of a project, and impact auditing. Without any form of follow up EIA would operate as a linear rather than an iterative process, and an important step towards achieving environmental protection will also have been omitted.
Follow up presents an opportunity both to control environmental effects and to learn from the process and cause-effect relationships. Ideally, data generated by monitoring and other aspects of follow up should be compared with the original predictions and mitigation measures in the EIS to determine
the accuracy of the original predictions
the degree of the deviation from the predictions
the possible reasons for any deviation
whether mitigation measures have achieved their objective of reducing or eliminating impacts
Information generated by this process can contribute to the improvement of future EIA practice, for example, by enabling more accurate predictions to be made.