EIA legislation exists today through environmental provisions set aside in a diverse range of legal mechanisms worldwide. The first legal law for EIA came into being on 1st January 1970. It was adopted in the United States of America by the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. The USA insisted that EIA be legal since government officials made observations that environmental degradation was becoming an intensifying trend. To sum it up, the EIA legislation has three main elements. They are:
A universal environmental policy
Making EIA a requirement for actions that significantly impact the environment
The administration of the legislation by a Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). The council also plays a crucial role in upholding the quality of EIAs.
The years following 1970 witnessed many other countries implementing EIA legislation. Countries highly appreciated that EIA incorporated environmental protection measures into the decision-making processes of major federal and public projects.
Criteria and Standards for Assessing Significant Impacts
Assessing environmental impacts is essential in providing a safe and healthy environment for all living beings. The standard global criteria for evaluating the impacts of proposals include:
Evaluating the likely impacts and developing alternatives
Creating an EIA report
Reviewing the EIA report
Taking decisions on whether or not an organization should implement the proposal
Once implemented, parties should monitor the project and ensure environmental compliance
Risk assessments are an essential component of an EIA. Risk assessments focus on human health. These assessments help to identify and characterize hazards (risks). They also assess the exposure of humans, animals, and wildlife to adverse environmental impacts.
Governments initiated risk assessments to establish environmental quality standards and address the issue of the effects of synthetic carcinogenic chemicals on humans. Later, aspects of risk assessments expanded to encompass ecological risks too. They were adapted to identify environmental remediation needs following a project or activity. Many remedial programs incorporate the principles of risk assessment.
Risk assessments programs within EIA commonly employ one of the following approaches. The approaches assess both human health as well as ecological risks:
Calculating or determining relative risks based on information from various selected factors.
Addressing recognizable, perceived, or actual risks.
Comparing risks of alternatives under evaluation.
A quantitative approach is based on the probability of actual risks of the alternatives under evaluation.
Risk assessments may focus on only one aspect of a project (such as the use of chemical fertilizers in agriculture), one phase of an activity (such as the construction phase of a dam), or multiple aspects.
Public Participation and Involvement
Public involvement is a fundamental element of EIA. Timely and well-planned public involvement programs contribute to project proposals’ effective management and operation. In particular, public participation forms a key means of obtaining information on a proposal’s impacts. It enables the people in charge of projects to directly hear from people and communities the project will directly affect. It ensures transparency of the EIA process.
Almost all EIA processes have provisions for public involvement and participation. They include direct dialogue with the public, thus making the EIA process interactive. Public involvement allows people to express their views on proposals’ environmental and social impacts.
The key objectives and purpose of public involvement programs are:
To inform stakeholders about the impacts of a proposal
To discuss their views and inputs
To take into consideration public views during the decision-making process
To obtain local and traditional knowledge that may be valuable in making decisions
To identify and implement alternatives and mitigation measures
To ensure that the benefits of the proposal are maximized for people and the environment.
The Environmental Protection Act
The Environmental Protection Act, of 1986 places authority and responsibility on the Central Government to protect the environment. It also compels the government to control and reduce all sources of environmental pollution. It gives governmental bodies the authority to prohibit and/or restrict the operation of any industry causing ecological damage. The last time the Indian government amended this Act was in 1991.
The Act specifies the procedures and standards for dealing with the emission of environmental pollutants. The Act also deals with handling, collecting, treating, and storing hazardous waste. It enables the Central Government to establish authorities to conduct annual inspections on how industries manage and store their hazardous wastes. This is essential to ensure that the environment is not harmed due to the hazardous waste generated by industries.
The GMO Rules, 1989 specify the handling standards of dangerous microorganisms. The rules were introduced to protect the environment and public health from biohazards.
The Water & Air Act (Prevention & Control of Pollution Act)
The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 enables authorities to prevent and control water pollution. It also directs them to restore the quality of water. The Water Act was amended in 1988. The Act places taxes on industries based on the activity they use water for. The government collects these taxes to ensure the reduction of pollutants in natural water bodies. The Act was last amended in 2003.
The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, controls, prevents, and abates air pollution. The government enacted this Act to take appropriate steps to preserve air quality. It gives central agencies (such as the Central Pollution Control Board) the power to perform functions to control and prevent air pollution. It also specifies the conduct of persons appointed to central air pollution boards.
The Motor Act & Wildlife Act
The Indian government enacted the Motor Vehicles Act in 1988. It specifies rules for granting a driver’s license to a person, the responsibility placed on owners of motor vehicles, and situations under which authorities can revoke a person’s driver’s license. The law also addresses the issues of greenhouse gas emissions by motor vehicles. It protects the environment against vehicular emissions. The government amended the Act twice, in 2017 and 2019.
The Wild Life (Protection) Act 1972 sets aside special provisions for protecting wild animals, birds, and plants. The Act also restricts the hunting of certain wild species. The last amendment to the Act occurred in 2006. It places responsibility on Indian citizens to protect and preserve wild habitats like forests, lakes, rivers, etc.
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