Scoping is to determine what should be the coverage or scope of the EIA study for a project proposal as having potentially significant environmental impacts. It also helps in developing and selecting alternatives to the proposed action and in identifying the issues to be considered in an EIA.
Aim of scoping...
Scoping is not an isolated exercise. It may continue well into the project planning and design phase, depending on new issues may arise for consideration.
Figure 1: Methods of Scoping
Methods of scoping...
These steps are described in details below:
(a) Making a plan for public Involvement
A public involvement or communication plan is one of the most important internal planning tools for those conducting a scoping exercise. The major purpose of scoping at an early stage of project planning is to clearly define all the communities and agencies which should be allowed to influence decisions relating to the proposal. The plan should identify whom to talk to, as well as when and how to undertake the communication exercise. Consent must be obtained from the authorities and government agencies concerned. The project proponent, relevant experts, local people affected, as well as special interest groups should be considered for inclusion in the list of persons to be covered by the communication plan. Methods for involving affected interests and for collecting information include:
(b) Assembling relevant existing Information
At this stage, information should be collected on the nature of the project, including preparation of a preliminary list of potential environmental impacts and practical alternatives, accompanied by maps, drawings and other aids for a fuller understanding of the project proposal. This key information will help in formulating appropriate mitigation measures and will form the basis of further discussion.
(c) Distribution of Information to affected persons
The information collected in step (b) should be processed and assembled into an information package and distributed to appropriate individuals and organizations for comment. Government departments and concerned local and regional officials should be contacted. For major projects, it is always advisable to issue a general public notice inviting public comment and to hold public meetings at the project site as well as at the central level to facilitate consultation and interaction.
The project proponents should be responsible for obtaining and making information available to the parties concerned. In cases, where the individuals affected by the proposed project should be identified, information should be sent directly to local community groups.
For larger projects, however, where the number of affected persons is not known, the information should be disseminated through the media or by sending the information package to the location within the area, where interested individuals may visit. The village communities concerned should be actively involved and made responsible for the collection of all written or verbal reactions to the project proposal from the local people.
(d) Identifying major Issues of public concern
All the concerns and issues raised by affected interests, should be compiled into a comprehensive list. Each contribution should be categorised and no issue or concern should be ignored or rejected in the compilation of the list.
(e) Evaluating the significance of Issues on the basis of available Information
Once the issues have been identified and grouped, their scientific validity needs to be carefully evaluated. If certain questions of a technical nature remain unresolved, a discussion panel or workshop can be organised at an appropriate venue to resolve the problem.
(f) Establishing priorities for environmental assessment
Although grouping of the issues is undertaken in step (d), a more detailed exercise should be conducted at this stage. Issues to which immediate solutions can be provided or issues which have no relevance to the proposed project should be dropped. The key issues remaining should be arranged in order of priority.
(g) Developing a strategy for addressing priority issues
Issues to which immediate solutions can be provided -- such as suggesting feasible alternatives or mitigation measures that can be implemented at an early stage -- should be removed from the list. For those issues which need further information in order to be resolved, a terms of reference (TOR) should be prepared in order to define guidelines for further study. The extent of information required for a detailed EIA depends upon the type, level, and magnitude of the project concerned.
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