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What is an Environmental Impact Assessment?

written by: Jayant R Row • edited by: Lamar Stonecypher • updated: 12/27/2013

Before a building can be built, an environmental impact assessment needs to be performed to determine how the endeavor will affect the environment. This allows planners to make their projects more environmentally friendly and acceptable to all involved.

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    The Need for an Environmental Impact Assessment

    eia 

    An Environmental Impact Assessment is a formal method of judging the impact that any new developmental project would have on the environment and its constituents. This can include changes that the project would create in the physical aspects of existing geography, chemical changes to the atmosphere including air and water, biological changes that affect plant, animal and human life, cultural impact of a project on the society in the area, and other socio-economic effects that the project can have.

    Such an assessment allows problems to be foreseen, so that the design and planning of the projects is modified to reduce any negative effects. It is now fashionable to build green buildings which have a positive effect on the environment.

    There is historical precedent for the now mandatory Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA). Past efforts by governments have resulted in bans on activities that caused noxious odors, garbage dumps were positioned at places far away from habitation, and commercial activities were restricted to town centers.

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    Objectives of Environmental Impact Assessment

    The objective of an EIA is to predict the environmental impact project would have on all aspects of the environment. Once this is done, a study has to be made to see if the impacts can be reduced in any way. The project has then to be modified to suit the local environment and all predictions and likely options presented to decision makers for final decisions.

    You can gain a better understanding of EIA by understanding how any typical project can affect the environment of a particular area. Take for example the building of a new road in a city.

    The alignment of the road may require that certain lands have to be leveled or new embankments created. Cutting of the land and the new embankments would affect the geography of the area and probably upset its drainage pattern. This would require re-planning existing methods of treating the run-off and could cause existing watercourses to be modified. The new road may require the removal of existing green cover and this could affect the living conditions in that area. The traffic going through that area can cause pollution problems from vehicles which also includes an increase in sound pollution. The emissions from the vehicles can affect already existing atmospheric pollutants which in turn could affect human health, animal health and affect greenery in the area. The road may affect existing structures in the area which may have to be removed and can cause changes in the economic wellbeing of the persons who are using those structures.

    A positive impact of the new road may mean a reduction in traffic congestion, its positive effect on pollution, and the economic advantage of these two aspects.

    For any environmental impact assessment, complete data on all these aspects as they are at present has to be made so that any changes can be reasonably judged to existing standards required for good living. The deterioration or increase in these living standards has then to be highlighted by the EIA before any final decision on the project can be undertaken.

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