Environmental Impact Assessment Project Cycle and Project Management
The relevant EIA activities for each stage in the project cycle are
At the initial stage of the project planning, information on the detailed project designs will not be available, but the basic nature of the project will be known (for example, whether it is to be a coal, oil or nuclear power station; a highway or a dam/reservoir) power output, and an area of land which is likely to be inundated and the site or sites where the project is being proposed to be implemented. At this stage, the project may be subject to "screening" to decide whether a full and comprehensive EIA report must be prepared.
If screening recommends that an EIA report is required, then the initial study will begin. At this early stage quick environmental overview/reconnaissance or preliminary EIA can indicate whether any of the alternatives proposed are environmental "disastrous". These can be eliminated from further consideration, and new alternatives can be identified. Major benefits of a "quick and dirty" overview are as follows:
The main EIA activities, at this stage, are identification of issues/impacts for investigation and, formulation of the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the EIA. The term used for this activity is "scoping"
EIA study should be carried out:
During the project appraisal, a decision is made by the proponent or by the government, and in some case by the lending agencies, as to whether the project is viable. At this stage, EIA results will be put into consideration with feasibility study. An application for authorisation(s) has to be made by the project proponent to a local/central government agency. This decision is the final and determines whether a project is to be implemented. The EIA report also plays an important role in this decision making process.
At this stage, in the project cycle, the EIA report will act as a "reference" guide to the implementation and use of mitigation strategies and monitoring schemes. Thus, the usefulness of an EIA report does not end with the "official" authorisation to proceed. It may form a basis for management plan to assist project implementation and management practice. For example, EIA report recommendations can form a part of contract tender documents.
Lastly, after the project is completed, an "audit" can be made to determine how close the EIA's predictions were to the actual impacts of the project. This forms a valuable records for others conducting EIAs on similar projects in the future.
EIA differs from other types of project related studies in the scope and breadth of the work and usually include a diversity of topics ranging from archaeological investigations to noise/vibration assessments. EIA is a multi-disciplinary activity and this factor provides one of its major challenges in terms of project management.
EIA report, unlike other project related reports, has many audiences. The readers/users of engineering and economic financial feasibility studies are the project proponents and the financial backers or supporters with relatively restricted readership. The situation is quite different with EIA reports. Such reports are read/used by the project proponents, financial backers, experts, authorising agencies and other organisations who deserve a rights to comment on an EIA report and submit their views on the desirability of a project and, of course, the members of the public. Thus, there is a challenge of facilitating open communications and understanding of the main issues.
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