EIA is a critical tool used globally and in India to gauge the potential environment consequences of proposed development and industrial projects. It is instituted under the environment act of 1980.
Effectiveness of EIA in environment risks:
- Identification of environment risks: EIA process involves a thorough analysis of potential threats a proposed project may pose to its surrounding environment for instance the assessment for the Tehri dam project extended concern about deforestation and seismic activities. By forecasting adverse effects mitigation strategies can be developed in advance.
- Public Improvement and Transparency: EIA mandates public hearings, providing local communities a voice in project planning for example in case of POSCO steel plant Odisha, where local concerns about the land rights and environmental degradation were brought to forefront, although the project eventually faced cancellation due to various reasons including environmental concerns.
- Mitigation of Ecological Damage: The Narmada Dam project underwent several alterations advised through EIA process to minimize ecological imbalance.
Challenges and Societal Concerns:
- Questionable objectivity: EIA reports in India are often proposed by agencies hired by the project proponents leading to conflict of interests.
- Bypassing Regulations: Several projects especially in sectors like real estate have been accused of flouting EIA norms leading to illegal construction on ecological fragile land.
- Over looking Social Impacts: EIA sometimes underestimates the socio- economic impacts on the country.
The land acquisition and displacement associated with the Sardar Sarovar dam on Narmada River, despite its EIA led to disruptions for local tribes.
- Ensuring unbiased scientific EIA reports by independent agencies.
- Strengthening post clearance scrutiny.