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Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) – UPSC

Environmental Impact Assessment

The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) serves as a crucial management tool, ensuring the judicious utilization of natural resources for sustainable development. In 1978-79, the evaluation of river valley projects marked the inception of this initiative in our country, expanding subsequently to encompass diverse sectors like industries, thermal power projects, and mining schemes. Guidelines have been formulated to aid in environmental data collection and management plan preparation, disseminated to relevant government departments. Under the Environmental Protection Act, 1986, EIA is now obligatory for 29 developmental categories with investments exceeding Rs. 50 crores, reflecting a comprehensive approach to environmental management.

What is Environmental Impact Assessments?

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) evaluates potential environmental impacts, considering socio-economic, cultural, and human-health aspects. It serves to analyze both positive and negative effects on the environment, economy, and society during the pre-planning stage, guiding decisions to minimize adverse impacts.

History of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)

Origins and Importance: The rise of negative environmental impacts from technological projects prompted the development of laws emphasizing Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

Pioneering Legislation: The United States took the lead in prioritizing EIA with the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) in 1969, influencing other industrialized nations like Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, and Japan to enact similar legislation in the early 1970s to mid-1980s.

Global Adoption: The European Community (EC) made EIA mandatory in 1985, while Latin American countries like Colombia pioneered EIA implementation in 1974. Asia-Pacific nations, such as Thailand and the Philippines, have long-standing EIA procedures, with Sri Lanka mandating EIA in 1984.

African Progress: EIA is in its early stages in Africa, with Rwanda, Botswana, and Sudan having some experience. The adoption of EIA as a decision-making tool has varied across nations.

International Guidelines: The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) played a pivotal role by issuing EIA recommendations to member countries in 1974 and 1979. In 1986, it extended recommendations to development aid projects and later issued comprehensive guidelines for good EIA practices in 1992.

Environmental Appraisal Committees

To guarantee a comprehensive evaluation of development projects, Environmental Appraisal Committees have been established across various sectors:

  1. Mining Projects
  2. Industrial Projects
  3. Thermal Power Projects
  4. River Valley, Multipurpose, Irrigation, and H.E. Projects
  5. Infrastructure Development and Miscellaneous Projects
  6. Nuclear Power Projects
Environmental Appraisal Procedure

After receiving a project application and necessary documents, the Ministry’s technical staff reviews it before presenting it to Environmental Appraisal Committees. These committees assess project impacts using provided data and may conduct site visits. Committee recommendations guide project approval or rejection, processed by the Ministry. For site-specific projects like Mining and River Valley, a two-stage clearance ensures environmental sensitivity consideration. Decisions for well-documented projects are made within 90 days.


Environmental clearance is granted upon assessing all project aspects, contingent on implementing specified safeguards. Monitoring occurs through six regional Ministry offices to ensure safeguard adequacy and facilitate mid-course corrections if needed. The procedure adopted for monitoring is as follows:

  • Biannual Reporting: Project authorities report progress every six months on condition implementation.
  • Field Visits: Ministry and regional teams visit projects, analyze performance data, and discuss challenges with proponents for solutions.
  • Government Intervention: State governments are engaged in case of significant deviations or poor response.
  • Scope Changes: Regular checks for project scope changes and the need for decision reviews.
Coastal Area Management

Coastal States/UTs must prepare Coastal Zone Management Plans (CZMPs) under the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification 1991, categorizing coastal areas for activities, seeking Ministry approval.

A Task Force, convened by the Ministry, reviews plans submitted by Maharashtra and Gujarat, identifying modifications needed. Orissa submitted a partial plan, while West Bengal submitted a preliminary concept document. Revised CZMPs were received from Goa, Daman & Diu, Lakshadweep, and Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

The Task Force, with seven meetings and two site visits during the year, assesses plans. After finalizing, authorities will enforce stringent regulations on coastal development under CRZ Notification to prevent violations.

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Island Development Authority (IDA)

The 9th IDA meeting on 22.1.96, chaired by the Prime Minister, addressed policies for integrated island development, emphasizing environmental protection. It reviewed program progress and impact.

Strategic Environmental Assessment

Sadler and Verheem (1996) define Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) as a formal, systematic process evaluating environmental consequences of policies or plans alongside economic and social factors. SEA covers broader activities and longer time spans than project-level Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). It’s proactive and sustainability-driven, complementing but not replacing EIA, enhancing the effectiveness of environmental considerations in decision-making.

Is The EIA report Mandatory in India?

  • Mandatory Requirement: Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is now obligatory for various industries in India to ensure they do not harm the surrounding environment.
  • Social Responsibility: Conducting an EIA is not only a regulatory requirement but also a socially responsible practice for industries.
  • Complex Procedure: The EIA process in India is intricate, requiring expertise for the accurate and authentic preparation of high-quality reports.
  • Expert Involvement: Only experts can deliver comprehensive EIA reports, necessitating the involvement of professionals familiar with all aspects of the proposed project.
  • Project Proponent’s Responsibility: The project proponent plays a crucial role in ensuring that all required documents for the EIA are complete and that the project meets all necessary requirements.
  • Accurate EIA Reports: Collaborating with experts ensures the generation of accurate EIA reports that fulfill all requirements for the proposed project.


This article emphasizes the significance of the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report, providing a detailed step-by-step procedure for its completion. It covers various aspects of EIA, offering comprehensive insights into the process. It is important to note that the information presented here is for informational purposes only and not intended as legal advice. The author’s opinions and statements in the content do not represent those of corpseed, and corpseed has not evaluated it for accuracy, completeness, or legal updates.

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