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Environmental monitoring is defined as
"an activity undertaken to provide specific information on the characteristics and functions of environmental and social variables in space and time."
A serious shortcoming of most environmental impact assessment process is the absence of baseline data and impact monitoring during the construction, and operation of large development projects. Without such data, it is impossible to test impact predictions and the success of mitigative measures. Furthermore, the lack of appropriate ecological monitoring, impedes the scientific progress, in impact prediction and assessment, makes it difficult to learn from experiences.
Environmental monitoring is therefore one of the most important components of an EIA which is essential for:
• ensuring that impacts do not exceed the legal standards,|
• checking the implementation of mitigation measures in the manner described in the EIA report, and
• providing early warning of potential environmental damages.
Principles of monitoring
Certain principles of EIA monitoring should not be overlooked. If the EIA monitoring process is to generate meaningful information and improve implementation of mitigation measures, it must accomplish the following:
- Determine the indicators to be used in monitoring activities,
- Collection of meaningful and relevant information,
- Application of measurable criteria in relation to chosen indicators,
- Reviewing objective judgments on the information collected,
- Draw tangible conclusions based on the processing of information,
- Making rational decision based on the conclusion drawn, and
- Recommendation of improved mitigation measures to be undertaken.
Types of Monitoring
Various types of monitoring activity are currently in practice, and each has some degree of relevance to an EIA study. The main types are briefly described below:
||a survey should be conducted on basic environmental parameters in the area surrounding the proposed project before construction begins (pre-audit study). Subsequent monitoring can assess the changes in those parameters over time against the baseline.
||the biophysical and socio-economical (including public health) parameters within the project area, must be measured during the project construction and operational phases in order to detect environmental changes, which may have occurred as a result of project implementation.
||this form of monitoring employs a periodic sampling method, or continuous recording of specific environmental quality indicators or pollution levels to ensure project compliance with recommended environmental protection standards.
Monitoring should be regular and performed over a long period of duration. Interruptions in monitoring may result in generating insufficient data to draw accurate conclusion concerning project impact.
The main aim of EIA monitoring is to provide the information required to ensure that project implementation has the least possible negative environmental impacts on the people and ecology.
Nepal: Environmental Monitoring Plan (Example from Hydropower Project from Nepal)
The monitoring plan includes the description of types of monitoring, the parameters to be monitored, methods to be used and schedules for operating monitoring activities. (More...)
Institutional factors determining the effectiveness of monitoring should not be underestimated. There needs to be a firm institutional commitment by the agencies responsible for the monitoring process, particularly in regard to the following:
- willingness on the part of the institutions involved and organizational personnel to support the monitoring process with the necessary level of resources and authority,
- maintaining continuity in the monitoring programme,
- technical capabilities of the personnel involved must be developed,
- integrity or honesty of the process must be maintained,
- decisions must be taken based on a thorough review of results,
- monitoring information must be made available to all agencies concerned, and
- necessary institutional reforms need to be made within the planning and implementation agencies.
EIA monitoring responsibility should be given to monitoring section within the planning divisions of concerned ministries.
The costs involved in EIA monitoring should be borned by the project proponent.
The reporting structure for EIA monitoring depends upon the nature of the project and the analysis undertaken by the agencies concerned. The information should be organized in a well developed format and presented in regular reports, allowing for easy presentation at decision making and review meetings. The agencies concerned have to oversee enforcement of the decisions taken in the review meeting. If decisions are not implemented by the agencies responsible, legal measures should be initiated to guarantee implementation.
Institutional Modality for an Effective EIA Implementation Introduction