Environmental Impact Assessment

An EIA should be able to assist
Description of the development:
Site description
Bounding the study
Baseline conditions
Identification of impacts
Analysis of impact seventy
Assessment of impact significance
Alternatives and Mitigation
Scope and effectiveness of mitigation measures
Commitment to mitigation
Public consultation
Non-technical summary
Appendix H

Evaluating the adequacy of an EIA Report

An EIA should be able to assist;

  2. to plan, design and implement their projects in a way that minimizes adverse impacts on the biophysical and socioeconomic environments, and captures potential environmental benefits;

  4. to decide whether or not a project should be approved and, if so, under what terms and conditions; and

  6. to understand a project and its environmental effects, and to make informed and substantive comments in the process of project review and approval.
To serve these purposes, an EIA must perform a number of distinct tasks. The objective of evaluating reports is to determine whether the tasks are adequatEIA performed.


For an EIA report to be useful, it has to disclose all relevant environmental considerations associated with a project and also provide information needed by decision-makers to assess the acceptability of the environmental consequences. Thus, the reviewer asks a number of basic questions before coming up with conclusions on the effectiveness of the report:

  1. Has the EIA report addressed all the important issues in the terms-of-reference? Does it analyze all the relevant environmental issues associated with the project?
  2. Is it suitably focused on the key questions that need to be answered to make a decision about the proposed project?
  3. Are the methods used to gather and analyze information both scientifically and technically sound?
  4. Is the EIA report clearly and coherently organized and presented so that it can be understood, especially by the lay public and decision-makers?
  5. Does the EIA report provide the information needed by decision-makers to assess whether or not the environmental consequences are acceptable?

Standard, comprehensive review topics are presented below to assist reviewers of an EIA Report to answer the above basic questions in a consistent, systematic and consistent manner. While this is their primary purpose, the review topics should also be usefi'1 to project developers in drafting terms-of-reference for an EIA report and in appreciating what the Environmental Affairs Department expects from an EIA report. They should also be useful to the public to guide their own reviews of an EIA report and focus their comments on salient issues. The review topics are designed to alert reviewers to areas of weakness or omission in an EIA Report. These most often occur when certain tasks are omitted; unsuitable or ad hoc methods are used; biased or inaccurate supporting data are introduced; or the rationale or justification for conclusions is not given. In this way, sources of weakness can be identified and, if necessary, becomes the subject of revision or further specialist investigation.

The review topics are organized into four Review Areas: 

  1. Description of the development, the local environment and the baseline conditions;
  2. Identification, analysis and assessment of impacts;
  3. Consideration of alternatives and impact mitigation; and
  4. Communication of the results.
Each Review Area contains a number of Review Categories (the numbered items) with more detailed Review Criteria (the bulleted items). By considering the integrity of an ELL report for each set of Review Criteria, a reviewer can make a judgement about its adequacy in the Review Category. Overall, the effectiveness of the EIA report in the four Review Areas contribute to judging the value of the EIA as whole. Review topics which should be treated satisfactorily for an EIA report to meet the minimum requirements generally expected of such reports are printed in bold. 

The review topics are arranged, so far as is possible, to reflect the order in which tasks should be performed in carrying out an EIA. This is important because many of the later tasks (topics) require information which will only be available if earlier tasks have been adequately performed. The comprehensive treatment of mitigation measures, for example, will only be possible if all significant impacts have been correctly identified and analyzed. The reviewer should be alert to these interactions and take them into account in his/her evaluations. Thus, in using the review topics, it is best to work through the four Review Areas in order.

Reviewers should bear in mind that a review topic is properly handled if there is sufficient information to allow a decision-maker to make an informed decision without having to seek further advice. Also, the information needed to consider any particular topic may not be located all in one place, and may be implicit in the treatment of other topics rather than explicitly provided.

Finally and most importantly, use of these review topics assist a reviewer to make a judgement as to whether or not an EIA report does a good job of assessing the impacts of a development project. They do not assist in determining whether or not these impacts are acceptable This distinction is important because an EIA report should provide information to support decision-makers in carrying out their responsibilities, and not try to carry out their responsibilities for them. Report reviewers have the saline task. It is their role to analyze an EIA report, determine if it does a proper job or needs revision or further study, and then advise decision-makers of the results so that decisions can be considered and made about the project being reviewed.

Review Area 1:  Description of the development, the local environment and the baseline conditions

1.1  Description of the development:  The purpose(s) of the development is described as well as its physical characteristics, scale and design. Quantities of materials needed during construction and operation are included and, where appropriate, a description of the production processes.
  1. The purpose(s) and objectives of the development are clearly explained.
  2. The design, size or scale of the development, and the nature and duration of construction and operation activities, are clearly described. There is a proper indication of the physical presence or appearance of the completed development within the receiving environment. Diagrams, plans, charts, maps and/or photographs are used effectively for this purpose.
  3. The report describes the environmental planning that went into the design of the project to minimize negative environmental effects and capture potential benefits.
  4. Important design features, especially those for environmental and socio-economic management (ea. pollution control, waste management, erosion control, handling of toxic or hazardous materials, worker services) are highlighted.
  5. The nature and quantities of materials needed during both the construction and operational phases are described as well as, where appropriate, the nature of the production processes.
  6. The number of workers involved with the project during both construction and operation are estimated.
1.2 Site description:  The on-site land requirements of the development are described as well as the duration of each land use.
  1. The land area taken up by the development site is well defined and its location clearly shown on a map. 
  2. The uses to which this land will be put are described and the different land use areas demarcated.
  3. Where alternate plans, designs or sites are being considered, each is adequately discussed in detail.
1.3 Residuals:  The types and quantities of residual and/or waste matter and energy created are estimated, the expected rate of production given, and the proposed disposal routes to the environment defined.
  1. The types and quantities of waste matter, energy and residual materials, and the rate at which these will be produced, are properly estimated. Uncertainties are acknowledged and ranges or confidence limits given where possible.
  2. The ways in which it is proposed to handle and/or treat these wastes and residuals is indicated, together with the routes by which they will eventually be disposed of to the environment. 
1.4 Bounding the study:  Appropriate boundaries to the study area and time horizon are identified.
  1. The environment expected to be affected by the development is delimited with the aid of suitable scale map(s). 
  2. The affected environment is defined broadly enough to include any potentially significant effects occurring away from the immediate project site(s). These may be caused by, for example, the dispersion of pollutants, off-site infrastructure requirements, etc. 
  3. The time horizon of the study is defined and long enough to account for delayed effects.
1.5 Baseline conditions:  A description of the affected environment as it is currently, and as it could be expected to develop if the project were not to proceed, is presented.
  1. The important components of the affected environments are clearly identified and described. The methods and investigation undertaken for this purpose are disclosed and are appropriate to the size and complexity of the assessment task. An appropriate amount of field work was done. Uncertainties are indicated. 
  2. Existing data sources were searched and, where relevant, used. These include local authority records and studies carried out by, or on behalf of, government and private-sector organisations. 
  3. Local land use and development plans were consulted and other data collected as necessary to assist in the determination of the probable future state of the environment, in the absence of the project, taking into account natural flucuations and human activities.

Review Area 2: Identification, analysis and assessment of Impacts

2.1  Identification of impacts:  All potentially significant impacts are identified. Key impacts are also identified and the main investigation centred on these.

  1. All important issues identified in the EIA terms-of-reference are included in the report. Deviations and exclusions are properly accounted for.
  2. Direct and indirect impacts are identified using a systematic methodology (e.g. project-specific checklists, interaction matrices, impact networks, expert judgement, and extensive consultations). A brief description of the impact identification methods is given along with the rationale for using them.
  3. Due attention is paid to environmentally-sensitive areas; to off-site, time delayed or recurring (ea. seasonal) impacts; and to cumulative or synergistic effects with existing and anticipated developments.
  4. Consideration is not limited to effects which will occur under design operating conditions. Where appropriate, impacts which might arise from non-standard operating conditions, or due to accidents, are also included.
  5. All phases of the project are considered -- e.g. pre-construction, construction, operation and decommissioning. 
  6. Key impacts were identified and selected for more intense investigation. The scoping methods are described and their use justified. 
2.3 Analysis of impact seventy:  The likely impacts of the development on the environment are analyzed and described  in as precise terms as possible.
  1. Impacts are analyzed as the deviation from baseline conditions, i.e. the  difference between environmental conditions expected if the development  were not to proceed and those expected as a consequence of it.
  2. The data used to estimate the severity of impacts is sufficient for the task and clearly described. Any gaps in the required data are indicated and accounted for.
  3. The methods used to predict impact severity are described and are appropriate to the size and importance of the projected disturbance. The assumptions and limitations of the methods used are explicitly discussed.
  4. Descriptions of impact severity encompass the appropriate characteristics of impact (e.g.. magnitude, areal extent, duration, frequency, reversibility, likelihood of occurrence).
  5. Where possible, estimates of impacts are recorded in measurable quantities with ranges and/or confidence limits as appropriate. Qualitative descriptions, where necessary, are as fully defined as possible (e.g. “minor means not  perceptible from more than 100 metres”).
2.4 Assessment of impact significance:  The expected significance that the projected impacts will have for society are properly assessed. The sources of quality standards plus the rationale, assumptions and value judgements used in assessing significance are fully disclosed.
  1. The significance of all impacts which will remain after mitigation are  described and clearly distinguished from impact severity.
  2. The significance of impacts is assessed using appropriate national and international quality standards where available. Explicit account is taken of the values placed on affected environmental features locally, nationally and (where appropriate) internationally.
  3. The choice of standards' assumptions and value systems used to assess significance are justified and the existence of opposing or contrary opinions acknowledged.
  4. Wherever possible, economic values are attributed to environmental costs and benefits.
  5. Individuals' groups, communities and government agencies affected by the project are clearly identified. 

Review Area 3:  Alternatives and Mitigation

3.1 Alternatives:Project alternatives are considered. These are outlined, the environmental implications of each are presented, and the reasons for their adoption or rejection briefly discussed.
  1. Alternate sites, processes, designs and operating conditions are considered where these are practicable and available to the developer. The main environmental advantages and disadvantages of these are discussed and the reasons for the final choice given. 
  2. Where possible, alternate construction strategies (e.g. timing, local versus imported labour) are considered and assessed for their environmental and socioeconomic implications.
  3. For public-sector proposals, alternate means of achieving project goals are considered (e.g. energy efficiency investments versus dams for energy supply). If not, the report discusses why this was not done.
3.2 Scope and effectiveness of mitigation measures:  All significant adverse impacts are considered for mitigation. Evidence is presented to show that proposed impact management measures will be appropriate and effective.
  1. Concerned stake holder (e.g. individuals, groups, communities, government agencies) have been adequately consulted and their views accounted for in the development of mitigation measures.
  2. The mitigation of all significant adverse impacts is considered. Wherever possible, specific mitigation measures are defined in practical terms (e.g. costs; manpower, equipment and technology needs; timing). 
  3. Any residual or unmitigated impacts are discussed and justification offered as to why these impacts should not or cannot be mitigated.
  4. It is clear to what extent the mitigation methods will be effective. Where the effectiveness is uncertain or depends on assumptions about operating procedures, climatic conditions, etc., data is introduced to justify the acceptance of these assumptions. 
  5. An effective environmental monitoring and management plan is presented to deal with expected, possible but uncertain, and unforeseen impacts caused by the project. Training needs are identified. The costs of the programme are estimated. Developer and government responsibilities are distinguished and reporting procedures are specified.
3.3 Commitment to mitigation: The project developer clearly expresses his/her commitment to, and capability of, carrying out the mitigation measures.

Review Area 4: Communication

4.1 Public consultation: There were genuine and adequate consultations with concerned project stake holder to appraise them of the project and its implications, and to obtain their views on key issues to be investigated and managed. The objectives, scope and results of the public consultation programme are clearly documented the report.
4.2 Layout:  The layout of the report enables the reader to find and assimilate information easily and quickly. External data sources are acknowledged.
  1. There is an introduction briefly describing the project, the aim of the environmental impact assessment and how this can be achieved.
  2. Information is logically arranged in sections or chapters and the whereabouts of important data is indicated in a table of contents or index. Terms-of-reference and data used in the assessment are included in appendices. The study team members are identified.
  3. When data, conclusions or quality standards from external sources are introduced, the original source is acknowledged at that point in the text.. Fir reference is included in a footnote or in a list of references.
4.3 Presentation:  Care is taken in the presentation of information to make sure that it is accessible to the  (...to be corrected )
       (...to be corrected )
  1. The report is presented as an integrated whole. Data presented in appendices is Fully discussed in the main body of the text.
4.4 Emphasis:  Information is presented without bias and receives the emphasis appropriate to its importance in the context of the project.
  1. Prominence and emphasis is given to all potentially significant impacts, both adverse and beneficial, in a balanced manner. 
  2. The report is unbiased and does not argue for any particular point of view.
4.5 Non-technical summary:  There is an adequate non-technical summary outlining the main conclusions and how they were reached.
  1. There is an adequate non-technical summary of the analysis and main findings of the study. Technical terms, lists of data and detailed explanations of scientific reasoning are avoided.
  2. The summary is comprehensive, containing at least a brief description of the project and its environmental setting, an account of the main impacts and mitigation measures to be undertaken by the developer, and a description of any remaining or residual impacts. A brief explanation of the methods by which information and data were obtained, and an indication of the confidence which can be placed in them, is also included.

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