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Environmental Impact Assessment of Construction Projects – Concept and Guidelines

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What is Environmental Impact Assessment of Construction Projects?

Globally, Environmental Impact Assessment (or simply, EIA) is recognized as a tool for achieving sustainable development. The main objective of EIA is to ensure that potential environmental impacts are foreseen at the appropriate stage of project design and addressed before any concrete decision is undertaken on the project. The Environmental Impact Assessment 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 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.

History Behind Environmental Impact Assessment

EIA legislations and the required procedural guidelines for carrying out the EIA process became effective since the 1970s in many developed countries. Environmental Impact Assessment is also proclaimed in Principle 17 of ‘Agenda 21’ (Agenda for the 21st century) of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), which was held on the 3rd to14th of June, 1992, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It states that: “Environmental Impact Assessment as a national instrument shall be undertaken for proposed activities that are likely to have a significant adverse impact on the environment and subject to a decision of a competent authority.” The EIA Act No. 86 of 1992 makes the EIA mandatory for development projects likely to have adverse impacts on the environment prior to implementation. Currently, EIA is practiced in over 100 countries of the world (Jay et al., 2007) while its effectiveness has been explored to a certain extent in some developed countries.

Purpose of Environmental Impact Assessment of Construction Projects

The purpose of the Environmental Impact Assessment study is to establish existing baseline conditions in the project area and to proactively assess the potential impacts and associated impacts of the proposed project on the project area.

The main objectives of the EIA are to:

  1. Establish the existing bio-geo-physical and socio-economic conditions of the project area.
  2. Identify the resultant impacts (positive and negative) associated with the installation and operation of the project.
  3. Make recommendations to eliminate/mitigate/control the magnitude and significance of the identified impacts.
  4. Recommend plan and procedures to manage the consequences and
  5. To integrate the views and opinions of stakeholders, National and International environmental regulations, codes and conventions relevant to the proposed dam activities into the final project design from the EIA report Review.

Procedure for Environmental Impact Assessment of Construction Projects

1. Literature review

This will involve extensive study of existing literature particularly, from reports of previous EIA or Environmental studies (if any) and other relevant studies on the environmental characteristics of the project area. Fieldwork activities/Laboratory analysis shall also be carried out to augment data gathered from desktop review.

2. Environmental Impact Assessment Process

This shall involve impact identification, prediction and evaluation. Impact evaluation will be carried out using a methodology that is applicable, specific and quantifiable, while the overall assessment will be carried out through established matrix/methods. A method that defines numerically the degree of interdependence of the various environmental parameters shall be considered. The 1-4 rating will be assigned to characterize the interrelationship by panel of experts. The impact evaluation results shall form the basis for developing the Environmental Management Plan for the proposed project.

3. Environmental Impact Assessment Report

There shall be a documentation of the EIA findings in a report format as specified in the EIA procedural guidelines (FEPA, 1995) A typical process of studies is outlined below:



Preliminary Activities


Terms of Reference

Project Initiation

Literature/Workshop Studies

Preliminary Assessment

Field Strategy






Terms of Reference

Sampling & Data Collection (Soil, Water and Air)

(Climate, Bio-diversity, Waste management, etc)



Analysis & Interpretation


Quality Control

Laboratory Studies

Data Management Interpretation





Internal Review Meetings

Report Preparation & Production

Submission of Report


Environmental Management Plan (EMP)

A robust Environmental Management Plan, with clearly specified guidelines for ensuring conformance of project implementation with procedure, practices and recommendations, shall be part of the EIA reports. The guidelines shall as a minimum include the following:
  1. Guidelines for ensuring conformity of detailed design with concept design
  2. Guidelines for implementation program
  3. Guidelines by which objectives and commitments will be achieved.
  4. Guidelines for responsibilities and accountabilities.
  5. Guidelines for procedures for dealing with changes and modification of project
  6. Guidelines for corrective action which will be employed should the need arise.
  7. Guidelines for inspection, auditing and monitoring of all phases of project
  8. Guidelines for decommissioning and abandonment of project
Read More: Environmental Impact Assessment of Large Dams
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