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Environmental Impact Assessment

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is defined as

the process of examining the environmental effects of the development – from consideration of the environmental aspects at design stage, through to the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement, evaluation of the EIS by a competent authority and the subsequent decision as to whether the development should be permitted to proceed, also encompassing public response to that decision.

Sridhar (2001) define Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) as the systematic identification and evaluation of the potential impact (effects) of a proposed project, plans, programme or legislative action relative to the total environment.

The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is defined as “a statement of the effects, if any, which the proposed development, if carried out, would have on the environment” (Environmental Protection Agency, 2002). Certain public and private projects that are likely to have significant effects on the environment are subject to EIA requirements derived from EIA Directive 85/337/EC (as amended by Directive 97/11/EC). The requirements of Directive 2003/4/EC on public access to environmental information took effect from June 2005. This Directive further strengthens provisions for ensuring public access to environmental information. Insofar as roads are concerned, the EIA Directive is transposed into law in Ireland through the Roads Act, 1993 (No. 14 of 1993).

An environmental impact assessment (EIA) is an assessment of the possible positive or negative impact that a proposed project may have on the environment, together consisting of the environmental, social and economic aspects.

The purpose of Environmental Impact Assessment process is to encourage the consideration of the environment in planning and decision making and to ultimately arrive at actions which are more environmentally compatible.

1.1.0 Where does EIA come from?

The EIA process derives from European law. The European law basis is Directive 85/337, The Assessment of the Effects of Certain Public and Private Projects on the Environment as amended by EC Directive 97/11/EC. The Directive is mainly implemented in UK legislation through the Town and Country Planning (Assessment of Environmental Effects) Regulations 1999 (SI 1999 No. 293). This is generally known as the EIA Regulations. Important guidance on the interpretation of the EIA Regulations and on the procedure to be used can be found in ODPM Circular 2/99 Environmental Impact Assessment.

The Regulations only cover decisions made under Town and Country Planning legislation. However, the Directive requires that all types of developments having significant impacts on the environment go through the EIA process. Therefore there are separate pieces of legislation (and some non-legislative processes) covering EIA for other types of developments including highways, power stations, water resources, land drainage, forestry, pipelines, harbour works and many others. UK regulations have been criticised as not fully interpreting the spirit of the EIA directive. Individual cases over major development proposals have led to controversial debates about quality of EIA. Third parties have complained to the European Commission about the failure of the UK Government to fully implement the EC directives on EIA.

1.2.1 How it came into being in Nigeria

Environmental impact assessment (EIA) came into being in Nigeria with promulgation of the Act establishing three independent EIA systems—the EIA Decree 86 (1992), the Town and Country Planning Decree 88 (1992) and the Petroleum Act (1969). Despite a sound legal basis and comprehensive guidelines, evidence suggests that EIA has not yet evolved satisfactorily in Nigeria, as the current system amounts to duplication of efforts and cost. An evaluation of the EIA system against systematic evaluation criteria, based on interviews with EIA approval authorities, consulting firms and experts, reveals various shortcomings of the EIA system. These mainly include inadequate capacity of EIA approval authorities, deficiencies in screening and scoping, poor EIA quality, inadequate public participation and weak monitoring. Overall, most EIA study rarely meets the objective of being a project planning tool to contribute to achieving sustainable development and mitigate impact from development project. The work concludes on the suggestions to involve in EIA process relevant authorities and to increase the competence of EIA consultants.

1.2.2 EIA concept and legal basis in Nigeria

Globally, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is recognized as a tool for achieving sustainable development. The main objective of the EIA is to ensure that potential environmental impacts are foreseen at the appropriate stage of project design and addressed before any decision is taken on the project. The EIA involves a systematic process for identifying, predicting and evaluating potential impacts associated with a development project. The EIA process must proffer mitigation measures to avoid, reduce or minimize the negative impacts on the environment, public health and property and may highlight the foreseeable positive impacts. The mitigation measures entail identifying possible alternative site, project, process design, including that of not proceeding with the project. The EIA is not a one-off process which terminates in the production of a report on the effects of the project and associated mitigation measures. It also deals with monitoring the construction and operational phases, and this continues till the project is decommissioned. The post-closure care is also an integral part of the EIA process.

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