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Sustainable Development and Environmental Impact Assessment: Sustainable Development, Environmental Impact Assessment, EIA Implementation Measures

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Sustainable Development and Environmental Impact Assessment: Sustainable Development, Environmental Impact Assessment, EIA Implementation Measures

Sustainable Development and Environmental Impact Assessment

An article highlighting the importance of Environmental Impact Assessment as a major instrument in decision making and for measurement of sustainability in the context of regional carrying capacity

Sunil Kumar

Printable Version of 'Sustainable Development and Environmental Impact Assessment: 'Updated On: 12/18/2005

Sustainable Development, Environmental Impact Assessment, EIA Implementation Measures:

The socio-cultural roots of our present environmental crisis lie in the paradigms of scientific materialism and economical determinism, which fail to recognize the physical limits imposed by ecological systems on economic activity. The economies must expand within ecosystems, which have limited regenerative capacities. The emergence of the concept of sustainable development in recent years has brought in the general realization that societal perceptions must shift towards ecological determinism so as to achieve qualitative growth with the limits of ecosystem carrying capacity.

Sustainable Development Premises and Preconditions

As defined by the United Nations world commission on environment and development, sustainable development must meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs and aspirations. It is a process in which the exploitation of resources, the directions of investment, and institutional changes are all made consistent with future as well as present needs. 

The concept of sustainable development is based on two underlying premises viz., symbiotic relationship between consumer human race and producer natural system and compatibility between ecology and economy.

Role of Environmental Impact Assessment

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) could form a major instrument in decision making and for measurement of sustainability in the context of regional carrying capacity, provided the conceptual framework is extended to the cumulative assessment of developmental policies, plans and projects on a regional basis. EIA is potentially one of the must valuable, inter disciplinary objective decision-making tools with respect to alternate routes for development process technologies and project sites.

It is an ideal anticipatory mechanism, which establishes quantitative values for parameters indicating the quality of the environment before, during and after the proposed development activity, thus allowing measures that ensure environmental compatibility. It presents a clear and concise picture of all benefits and costs associated with alternative courses of action and provide a mechanism for merging the concerns for environment and economics in the process of decision-making. 

Implementation Measures

Designing a viable role for EIA in sustainable development warrants the following implementation measures:

  • Extension of the scope of EIA to the full range of ecologically and socially relevant developmental activities in a region

  • Creation of viable infrastructure and delegation of responsibility and functions in respect of EIA to the relevant central and state government agencies without ambiguity or redundancy at the two levels

  • Formation of explicit sector specific guidelines for environmental review to aid the review authorities, project proponents and consultants under taking EIA

  • Incorporation of screening, scooping and rapid/comprehensive regional EIA concepts in the review process for overcoming present limitations to EIA

  •  Incorporation of Environmental Management Plan (EMP), Disaster Management Plan (DMP) and Post Project Monitoring (PPM) in the review process

  • Delineation of objective environmentally sensitive areas based on the type of regional ecosystem

  • Introduction of appropriate legal measures for implementation of EIA provisions and post project surveillance

  • Training of decision makers and senior officials with resource input from international and national agencies and training of middle level engineers and scientists with support from national institutions

  • Establishment of a National Environmental Monitoring Organization (NEMO) for creation of a comprehensive, centralized information base to aid EIA process

  • Establishment of an autonomous National Environmental Impact Assessment Agency (NEIAA) for effective implementation of EIA

Policy-makers faced with long-term environmental problems often argue that they can’t afford to worry about the remote and abstract when surrounded by the immediate and concrete. The problems, which overwhelm us today, are precisely those, which, through a similar approach, we faced to solve decades ago. 

Sustainable Development, Environmental Impact Assessment, EIA Implementation Measures
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