A. Biological and Physio-chemical Impacts.
Type of Impacts and their Consideration
Impacts in this category relate to effects on biological resources such as vegetation, wildlife, crops, and aquatic life. Impacts affecting soil and land forms, or creation of a propensity for soil erosion, floods and sedimentation, would be considered as physical impacts. Chemical impacts relate to project activities that cause a chemical change in air/water/soil quality. Smoke emitted from a brick factory, for example, may change the amount of sulphur dioxide (SO2) content of ambient air, while untreated effluent discharged directly into a river by a paper factory may change the chemical characteristics of the river.
The biological component covers all elements, including different forms plant life, structures, functions and their interaction with other components of an ecosystem. Another component of a biological system is the animal life, which ranges from microscopic protozoans to large animals such as elephants occupying different niches in trophic-dynamic systems.
The biological systems interact with physical elements such as air, water, soil, rocks and solar radiation, giving rise to a system known as an ecosystem. The material-cycling, assimilative, and productive roles of an ecosystem are the process that maintain the balance of nature. However, human activities which are intended primarily for self benefit tend to destroy the natural balance, consequently giving rise to man made disasters.
In the conclusion, in the process of planning of a economic development project, the consideration of following four major points should be made to avoid or minimize the adverse impacts of biophysical components;
A study of socio-economic impacts would examine project action that alters the existing social and economical condition of communities within or around the project location. Socio-economic impacts may prove either adverse or beneficial. For example, an expanded irrigation facility designed to enhance agricultural production would be beneficial; while the project might also result in water-logging that could produce a salinity problem with is adverse consequencies.
Social impacts can be subdivided into the following:
Traditionally, social considerations in EIA were limited to changes, that has occurred in demographic and socioeconomic characteristics because:
A more comprehensive analysis would required to include the following sociocultural parameters:
The first step in social impact analysis is the identification to social communities such as:
The analysis also include (the refinement of the actual capacity of the people, to make the major decision, regarding the uses of biophysical resources, upon which they depend for livelihood. The distribution of production is also another important aspects to be analysed. Identification and analysis has to be made on:
Information on resource availability and utilization, impact of inadequate compensation, if traditional system of resource use is disrupted are extremely useful for formulating environmental mitigation strategy in the process of EIA.
Another aspect of social analysis is the consideration of EIA for a project which is being planned for implementation in an ecologically sensitive area, from which the local people are deriving their livelihood. People utilising resources in such an area, can be broadly categorised into three resource user groups:
While carrying out EIA, it is important to analyse all three types of resource users. The Knowledge, Attitude and Practices (KAP) of category (1) should be enhanced by involving the people in all levels of project implementation. Categories (2) and (3) of resource users have to be linked with local authority, leadership or any other kinds of regulating agencies in order to protect the biophysical resources.
Particular attention must be paid to the consideration of indigenous, tribal, low- caste, ethnic and minority groups in implementation of projects; these groups in the society, become most vulnerable to dislocation and changes in socioeconomic status. Otherwise, this might, in turn, create more environmental problems, as they will be forced to adopt inappropriate production systems.
However, in some countries, indigenous groups of people are provided resource-use or land use rights through constitutions, policies or regulation; but in many cases, such rights are nullified due to socioeconomic and political status. In some cases, one tribal group dominates and others are ignored, as in Africa; the caste system in South Asia is similar, where the lower castes and "untouchables" become most vulnerable. In such circumstances, as described above, the primary concern of EIA is not to encroach upon the lands and other properties of these vulnerable groups of people.
Two important aspects have been recommended while considering social aspects in EIA:
Project impacts on cultural heritage should be considered. Areas of study should include historic sites, religious shrines or areas, or traditional practices that may be affected.
Cultural resources refer to archaeological, historical, religious, cultural and aesthetic values. Cultural resources are part of the resource base, it is therefore important that the development options, under consideration are screened for potential impact on cultural properties. In the process of conducting EIA, it is essential; to check; whether or not the area contains UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which now number over 300 sites recognised as having outstanding universal value. The national inventories of cultural resources, which can provide important data. Additionally, agencies like museums, universities, departments of archaeology, and other relevant agencies should be consulted.
A project that involves a large-scale modification or disturbance of land and is located in an area where there are cultural resources, requires an intensive survey by qualified archaeologists. On the basis of findings of intensive survey the decision-makers have to decide, whether or not the project should go ahead or whether to adopt project alternatives or devise mitigation measures to be adopted, along with institutional training and monitoring requirements, etc. In all these processes, involvement of local communities is necessary.
If in the project site, there are some buried materials of archaeological/ historical value, discovered within three meters under the earth's surface, they are called "Archaeological Chance Finds", and the construction contractor should comply with the following rules and national archaeological laws:
If sacred religious shrines needed to be relocate from the project area, the first step is to determined whether the shrines are of national or local significance. This has to be confirmed by consulting a national heritage register. If it is a national treasure, then the concerned departments, NGOs and local people should agree on whether relocation is possible. However, such an intervention should be scientifically sound, locally acceptable and nationally agreeable. If the shrine to be relocated is only of local significance, the local people, community leaders, NGOs and others should reach in consensus and local people should be involved in the process of relocation. Alternatively, if there is a series of shrines of archaeological and historical value, likely to be affected by development activities, then a strategy for restoration, conservation and management should be developed and implemented.D. Health Impact
Traditionally, health issues have been given little attention in EIAs. Even when social impacts were being investigated, the effects of a proposal on individual mental and physiological well-being (health status and trends) were often omitted or treated in an unsatisfactory manner. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines health as a state of social and individual well-being and not just the absence of disease. If this view is accepted, then the links between health and social impacts are apparent. Often, not always, health impacts depend on environmental impacts, such change in habitat causing increased in vector or the likelihood of contact between the vectors and humans. The direct relationship between biophysical change, and incidence of disease may be one of the important reasons. However, there are disease pathways, which occur solely, within a social context. A common example is an increased incidence of sexually transmitted disease resulting from the influx of a large construction labour force.
The following are reasons why the consideration of health impact assessment, should be integrated into the EIA process.
However, following are some difficulties in undertaking health impact assessment:
Some groups of individuals may be more exposed to harmful pollutants and their health status will decline. Also, some groups may suffer a decline in their standards of living and become poor. Such a change in socio-economic status can be accompanied by increased morbidity and mortality due to poor nutrition, unsanitary living conditions and reduced physical and financial access to healthcare facilities. Health impacts also can occur directly from development, particularly from hazardous installations, when an accident occurs, such as the release of a certain amount of a toxic gas or an explosion (Bhopal disaster is an example).
Similarly, relocation of individuals and groups to new areas causing disastor development (e.g., a dam flooding a valley, containing several villages) increase in death and illness rates amongst those being relocated. The old and the young have been the most vulnerable to illness and death. Such an example can be cited from the Rara Lake area in Nepal, where a national park was established in 1975. The inhabitants were displaced to the terai region without assessing the social and health impacts of displacement. After several years it was found that 80 per cent of young and old people died because they could not adapt to the new conditions.E. Economic Impact
The focus in economic impact assessment is the estimation of the change in economic variable caused by:
It is essential to estimate the size of labourforce, skilled manpower requirement and the duration of their involvement. Requirement of manpower varies at different stages of project implementation; for example, the need for labour peaks at the mid point of construction and then declines gradually. An estimation of capital expenditure on local materials, and services is also required for economic evaluation.
A thorough analysis of the labourforce and the local economy requires information on:
These data can be manipulated for analysing and predicting economic impacts. The money, that comes into the area in the form of wages is the Initial Income Injection (III) into the local economy. Some part of such money will be spent on buying goods and services, helping to improve the economy of those who sell goods and services. In this way a flow of money in the project area is being maintained with certain changes in the economy at each stage. Thus, the value of economic multiplier will be high. In some cases, the income earned by labours will be remitted outside the project area to their families; in such cases, the value of multiplier would be low. This is the reason why the emphasis on the employment of local people is desirable rather than employing people from outside of the project area.
Social effects are the outcomes of economic impacts, and this is particularly true for the project in which immigration of workers from outside is dominant. This does not happen always; however, it happens when the labour market in the local area is insufficient. Migrant labour forces can take up any type of employment and create social problems. The impacts created in the operational stage are more far reaching than at the construction period.
In developing countries, with development activities going on, a large number of people are attracted in search of employment. Such massive aggregation of people can place significant additional strains on the local infrastructure, environment and local government resources.
When economic impacts are being investigated, the focus is usually on the effects of the nature and behaviour of the local economy. Commonly, the economic consequences for local and other governmental organisations are omitted. These consequences are termed fiscal impacts because they are concerned with changes in the costs and revenues of these organisations. Major projects can cause large increases in local population and, as a result, cause stress on local services (such as health provision), infrastructure (such as roads and sewerage), and local resources. Key factors determining fiscal impacts include:
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