Environmental Impact Assessment



Appendix C

Preparing EIA Submissions

There are two sequential types of formal EIA submissions which represent progress reports to meet the requirements of Malawi's EIA process. These are Project Briefs, and EIA Reports. 


A Project Brief is a short report informing DEA that a prescribed activity is being considered. Its sole purpose is to provide sufficient information to allow DEA to determine the need for an EIA based on screening criteria discussed in Appendix D of these guidelines. Thus, a Project Brief must contain the information needed by DEA to evaluate the report against the screening criteria. 

Unless a project is likely to have evidently significant environmental impacts, project developers should be able to prepare a Project Brief with little or no assistance from environmental specialists. Since projects and their stage in the project cycle varies widely, detailed guidelines for the content of a Project Brief are not possible. However, Section 24 of the EMA requires that a Project Brief should at least state: 

  1. the nature of the project; 
  2. the activities that shall be undertaken; 
  3. the possible products and by-products anticipated; 
  4. the number of people the project shall employ; 
  5. the area of land, air or water that may be affected; and 
  6. any other matters as may be prescribed.  More generally, a Project Brief should also contain:

    1. A basic description of the project purpose, size, location and preliminary design, including any alternatives which are being considered (ea. site, technology, construction and operation procedures, handling of waste). 
    2. The stage of the project in the project cycle. 
    3. A location map of the project site or site alternatives, and a site plan as it is currently known. Maps and plans should conform to the standards discussed below. 
    4. A discussion of which aspects of the project are likely to cause environmental concerns, and of proposed environmental management measures. 

Section 25 of the EMA contains a specific list of topics that must be covered in an EIA report. The intention of this appendix is to elaborate on those topics to give a fuller appreciation of what an EIA report should contain. Additional topics are also discussed to fill out the contents of the highest quality of report. 

  1. Quality Standards: Project developers and their EIA teams should be mindful that an EIA will be evaluated by EAD using standard, comprehensive evaluation criteria discussed in Appendix H of these guidelines. Thus, the criteria embodied in these guidelines represent quality standards which EAD expects project developers to meet in preparing an EIA report. 

  3. Terms of Reference:  The terms of reference under which the EIA was prepared should be included in the report, usually as an appendix. 

  5. Identification of the EIA Team: An EIA report should contain a listing of all the team members involved in preparing the report, their qualifications in summary, and an overview of what each member contributed to the report preparation. 

  7. Discussion of EIA Methods:  The methods used in carrying out an EIA should be documented in an EIA report to assist reviewers in understanding the results and how they were obtained. These methods include those for identifying potential impacts (ea. checklists, interaction matrices), for collecting data and information (ea. field surveys, public consultation), and for analyzing impacts and assessing their significance. 

  8. It is especially important in EIA to make the distinction between the severity of an impact (ea. its magnitude, a real extent, duration, frequency and reversibility) and its significance. This is a fundamental distinction which is often overlooked. Assessing the significance of an impact involves combining information about its likely severity and about the importance of the environmental feature being affected. In other words, impact analysis deals with the question What's so?" or is likely to be so. Impact significance deals with the question "so what?". Decision-makers need to know the answer to both questions. When methods are unclear and the distinction between severity and significance are blurred, the usefulness of EIA results to decision-makers is substantially diminished.

  9. Public Consultation: The methods and results of consulting the public should be documented. 

  11. Information and Mapping Standards:  All sources of data and information used in an EIA should be suitably documented. Secondary sources should be acknowledged and properly referenced. Where the relevance of the information for EIA purposes may be debatable, the EIA should justify its use with a discussion of its quality, currency and precision. The EIA should also identify data and information gaps and analyse their effect on the study results and reliability. 

  12. Other than small-scale location maps, all maps presented in an EIA Report should be at 1:50,000 or larger scale. All maps must be drawn to scale with the scale given. Thematic information (ea. roads, streams, and vegetation types) should be mapped using standard symbols identified in a legend. 


The typical elements of an EIA report are presented below. While the discussion refers to "sections" of a report, those that prepare an EIA should not feel constrained by the suggested structure but use one which best communicates the project and the EIA results. In terms of content, however, an EIA report should contain material discussed below. 

  1. Executive Summary:  This is a short but comprehensive summary of the report, with an emphasis on expected impacts and management measures. In most cases, the summary should be no more than two or three pages long. 

  3. Introduction:  The introduction will identify the type of project proposed (ea. a multi-purpose dam), its location (or location alternatives) and if the project is part of a larger proposal. The project developer must be clearly identified as must be the team which carried out the ELA. It will outline the background to the project and the reasons or necessity for it. 

  5. Project Description: The project description will indicate the status of the project in the project cycle -- e.g. pre-feasibility, feasibility, detailed engineering and design -- so that the level of detail and available planning or design options can be understood by reviewers of the report. The description of the project and its alternate sites, designs and implementation strategies will be given in only enough detail so that impact forecasts and management measures can be understood and appreciated. Detailed descriptions of aspects of the project irrelevant to the forecasting and management of impacts must be omitted. In most cases, it is not necessary to include detailed process or market-sensitive information which a developer might want to remain confidential. In most cases, the description will include: 
  1. inputs (raw materials), outputs (products), processes and major types of equipment; 
  2. maps, flow diagrams and photographs where necessary; and 
  3. a summary of technical, economic and environmental features essential to understanding the project. 
The possible project options available within the existing economic, technical and environmental constraints will be discussed and compared. These could be options in terms of size, site, technology, layout, raw materials, energy sources and even products. The principal features of each option will be given and the economic, technical and environmental advantages and disadvantages of each option will be discussed and evaluated. Reasons for selecting the preferred option(s) will be given. 
  1. Environmental Planning and Design:  The report includes a discussion of the environmental planning that has gone into the project. All the issues that have been taken into account for avoiding or minimizing impacts, for capturing potential benefits, for compensating for residual impacts, and for impact management are discussed. 

  2. The design management features to which the developer is committed are highlighted as these form a key part of the project design on which impact analysis is carried out. The design process should pay particular attention to human health issues. 
  1. Public Consultation:  The report discusses the objectives, methods and results of public consultations during the EIA. 

  3. Environmental Setting:  Most importantly, the report contains a description of the environmental setting. This is given in only enough detail to allow for an understanding of the analysis and assessment of impacts. It describes at least the following:
    1. the spatial and temporal boundaries within which the environmental setting was considered; 
    2. the existing condition of the physical, biological and human environments of the project area, as well as trends and the anticipated future environmental conditions should the project not go ahead; and 
    3. environmentally-sensitive areas of special or unique biophysical, socio-economic or cultural value. 

  4. Assessment of Environmental Impacts: A description of how beneficial and adverse impacts, both direct and indirect, are expected to occur is necessary for each feature of the environment identified as important during the scoping of the study requirements. Possible cumulative and  synergistic effects are highlighted. In each case, the report discusses: 
    1. the source(s) or cause(s) of the impact; 
    2. the severity of impact (ie. its magnitude, areal extent, duration, etc.) as well  as the likelihood of its occurring as forecast; 
    3. the assessed significance of the impact; and 
    4. possible measures for avoiding or mitigating the impact 
It is imperative that the analysis of impacts be based upon a comparison of future environmental conditions with and without the project. Comparison of project-induced changes to existing conditions only is not acceptable. 

The section includes a discussion of the analytical methods used to forecast impacts, of how environmental data was gathered, and of the methods and criteria used to judge impact severity and significance. 

This section of the report concludes with a summary of those impacts considered to be of greatest significance and measures proposed to avoid, reduce and/or manage them. It also discusses the distribution of-adverse and beneficial impacts locally and regionally. It identifies which impacts the developer is committed to managing during project implementation and which are residual impacts -- i.e. those which cannot be avoided or minimised. 

  1. Environmental Management Plan:  This section summarises the earlier discussion of the planning and design measures that have been adopted into the project plan to reduce or eliminate potential impacts. It presents a plan for monitoring and managing impacts during project implementation, and outlines which activities will be undertaken by the proponent and which should be the responsibility of government. 

  3. Resound Evaluation:  Where possible, the report includes an economic evaluation of the environmental costs and benefits of the project, and identifies those which cannot be evaluated in monetary terms. The distribution of costs and benefits (i.e. Who benefits? Who pays?) is also discussed. 

  5. Summary and Recommendations:  Appropriate conclusions should be drawn in each section of the EIA report. It is useful to have the conclusions summarised in a series of brief statements referring to relevant sections of the report. The section focuses on significant impacts, the measures recommended for avoiding or minimising them, and the impact management proposals during project implementation. 

  7. Appendices:  Appendices contain information not directly useful in the text of the report but needed for reference or detailed review by technical experts. These could include: 
    1. The terms-of-reference for the EIA. 
    2. Sources of data and information. All individuals and agencies consulted for specialist information or knowledge used in the report are referred to in the text and documented here. Written opinions received from outside specialists may also be appended. Field data collection programmes completed during the EIA are also described. 
    3. Detailed data reduced for use in the main body of the EIA report. 
    4. Detailed technical analyses of particular impacts (e.g. pollution dispersion, soil erosion, projections of demands for social services). 
    5. A summary of the programme for consulting the public in project planning and assessment, plus a complete record of all parties consulted. 
    6. Names, qualifications and roles of the team members who carried out the study.


Foreword | Preface | Contents | Acknowlegdements  | Acronyms | Glossary
Chapter One | Chapter Two | Chapter Three | References
Appendices | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | HAnnex I