Impact Assessment (EIA) is the process of assessing the likely
environmental impacts of a proposal and identifying options to
minimise environmental damage. The main purpose of EIA is to inform
decision makers of the likely impacts of a proposal before a decision
is made. EIA provides an opportunity to identify key issues and
stakeholders early in the life of a proposal so that potentially
adverse impacts can be addressed before final approval decisions
are made." (Australian
is not a way of allowing an environmental 'veto' on development
proposals. Environmental considerations may be set aside in favour
of other considerations including economic and other benefits
of going ahead. The Commonwealth
and each State and Territory has legislation relating to EIA.
to a United Nations Environment Program Training
is a structured approach for obtaining and evaluating environmental
information prior to its use in decision-making in the development
process. This information consists, basically, of predictions
of how the environment is expected to change if certain alternative
actions are implemented and advice on how best to manage environmental
changes if one alternative is selected and implemented. Until
relatively recently, with a few notable exceptions, EIA focused
on proposed physical developments such as highways, power stations,
water resource projects and large-scale industrial facilities.
Slowly, but increasingly, its scope of application is expanding
to include policies, plans and other actions which also form part
of the development process.
are provided, by EIA, with information (and often recommendations)
on the anticipated consequences of their choices. EIA is, therefore,
a management tool with technical input, not a technical aid
with 'add on' management aspects. This distinction is crucial
to an understanding of the objectives of EIA and how it can
best be implemented.
has been in existence since 1970 (when it was introduced into
the United States of America following the National Environmental
Policy Act coming into effect) and has spread rapidly since
then to all parts of the world. EIA is still relatively 'young'
and the number of countries which use it, as a legal/administrative
requirement, is still increasing. At the same time, EIA practice
(and the techniques used) is evolving as experience has been
gained on its utility in a wide range of development and geographic
use of EIA has been formalized by the introduction of national
laws and regulations and, in some cases, policies which establish
systems of institutionalised procedures to ensure that all proposed
physical development, expected to be environmentally damaging,
is assessed prior to authorization and possible implementation.
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Impact Assessment: Issues, Trends and Practice,
prepared for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP),
also: The Institution of Engineers, Australia, Environmental