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Is there really any need for an Environmental assessment at all? By the way, what is an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA for short)? It is an assessment conducted to ascertain the potential effect of a project that is to be sited in a place. The assessment is to appraise whether it will be harmful to the host community or otherwise and the international best practice to adopt.

Activities like mining, quarrying, oil exploration, dredging, citing of power plants, nuclear plants and factories, etc, all requires an EIA before taking off. In some cases, EIA can also be carried out for an already existing project. It is sometimes called Environmental Study, Environmental Impact Statement or Environmental Effect Study.

History has it that EIA was first introduced in 1969 in the United States of America as an Act. Since then, it has been adopted and fine tuned by increasing number of countries to suit them.

It is a norm in most countries of the world and it is usually required by law especially in industrialized countries. There is no definite modus-operandi for this. But in general, it is aimed to ensure that the air, water, land and wildlife (in fact the ecosystem) will not be affected as a result of the project in that vicinity and the environs. An EIA involves a sequence of steps:

  1. Screening to decide if a project requires assessment and to what level of detail;
  2. Preliminary assessment to identify key impacts, their magnitude, significance and importance;
  3. Scoping to ensure that key issues are focused on;
  4. Implementation of the Assessments.

Health Impact Assessments, Strategic Environmental Assessments, Social Impact Assessments and Cumulative Effects Assessments all sums up EIA. Economic and social consequences of the project may be part of factors to be integrated into the EIA or one may decide not to include them in the EIA.

However, the consent of the host community MUST be sought during the assessment and they MUST be carried along in the course of this exercise and their suggestions and inputs are factored in.

In cases where there will be toxic emissions emanating from the project, it will be factored into the study and also how the level of the emissions will be monitored periodically.


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