Human activities have induced depletion of natural resources. Moreover, degradation of environment due to many development projects have attracted growing interest in the last few decades. To address the negative consequence of development action on environment, Nepal government has established EIA system with the formulation of Environment Protection Rules 1997 as well as sectoral policy, laws and guidelines. EIA has been developed as a tool for systematic identification and evaluation of the impacts on the environment caused by proposed project.
The government of Nepal enacted the Environment Protection Act (EPA) 1997 and the Environment Protection Rules (EPR), 1997, which makes the integration of IEE and EIA legally binding to the prescribed projects. The EPR, 1997 elaborates provisions to prepare and submit the scoping report, Terms of Reference (TOR), and IEE/EIA report for approval and includes public consultation process.
A national environmental impact assessment 1993 has been developed which have established the overall policy, framework and format on which specific sectoral EIA guidelines will be based. The guidelines aims to ensure that consistent and technically adequate EIAs are prepared and defines EIA as a management tool for studying and evaluating potential environmental consequences of proposed development projects in order to:
·Identify beneficial and adverse environmental impacts;
·Examine the significance of the environmental implications;
·Assess whether adverse impacts can be mitigated;
·Recommend preventative and mitigation measures;
·Advise whether proposed development projects should proceed;
·Inform decision-makers and interested parties about the environmental implications of projects and
·Provide information for decision-makers to determine whether a project should be implemented and in what form.
Screening of a project: helps to identify whether the project requires EIA or not. It is based upon indicators such as prescribed parameters, financial threshold and sensitive areas.
Projects requiring IEE are the ones whose impact on the project may be known easily and for which mitigation measures may be discovered easily. Such projects requiring IEE are listed in schedule 1 of Environment Protection Rules (EPR) 1997 and projects requiring EIA are listed in schedule 2. In cases where it has not been ascertained whether environmental impact assessment for a project is necessary, initial environmental examination shall be conducted to determine whether the project may cause significant impact on the environment and whether such impact may be removed by adopting appropriate measures.
Scoping of a project: is done with the aim of discovering the alternatives to the proposed activities of the project identified as having potentially significant impacts on the environment, selecting appropriate alternatives, and determining the issues to be considered during the environmental impact assessment. It provides opportunity for involvement of public in determining the factors to be assessed.
Collecting relevant data and information, providing necessary information and notification to the people likely to be affected by the project, identifying major issues of public concern, evaluating the seriousness of the issues, establishing priorities for EIA, developing strategy for addressing priority issue are all done in this stage.
According to EPR 1997 (Rule 4.1), for projects requiring EIA, a public notice must be published in any national level newspaper, requesting VDC or municipality, where the project is to be implemented, to offer in writing their suggestions concerning to the possible impact of the implementation of the proposal, giving Fifteen days of time period.
Then Preparation of scoping document is done with the received comments and suggestions and submitted to the concerned body by the proponent (Rule 4.3).
Terms of Reference (TOR) provides systematic working procedure. It seeks to fit EIA with existing policy, rules and administrative procedure. It helps to accomplish the job within a specified time limit.
In case for IEE, the proponent would have to prepare TOR in accordance with schedule 3 of EPR and for EIA, schedule 4 has to be followed. The TOR prepared should be submitted and shall have to be approved by the ministry.
IEE/EIA Report: The project proponent must then prepare environment impact assessment report in the format prescribed in schedule 6 of EPR (Rule 7.1) and schedule 5 for IEE. In case of IEE, the proponent must publish a notice in national newspaper requesting concerned VDC, Municipality of DDC for their written opinion and suggestions within Fifteen days with regard to the possible impact of the implementation of the proposal on the environment where the proposal is to be implemented and prepare a deed. The received comments and suggestions I then incorporated in the report. In case of EIA, public hearing in the project site is done. 15 copies of the prepared report then should be submitted to the concerned authorities, along with the recommendation from the VDC or Municipality (Rule 10). The concerned authority shall then review the report, and if no negative environmental impact is seen, then approval is given within twenty one days and forward the proposal to the Ministry along with its opinion as well as ten copies of the report within Twenty One days from the date of its receipt (Rule 11.1). Ministry, then shall publish notice on newspaper granting a time limit of Thirty days for the general public to study the report and make comments if any (Rule 11.2).
Project proponent, National Planning Commission, Line ministries, NGOs and representatives from the affected population must review the report on:
i) Impact Identification: All possible impacts likely to be aroused due to implementation of the project must be illustrated in the report.
ii) Mitigation measures: It must be reviewed as if whether the mititgation measures have been proposed and alternatives considered.
iii) Working procedures: Check on:
a.Whether the environmental impact assessment working procedures conform to relevant laws and national and sectoral guidelines and regulations.
b.In which phase of decision-making the environmental impact assessment has been included.
c.How the beneficial and adverse impacts of the project have been integrated into the economic analysis of the project.
d.Whether the scoping procedure was satisfactory.
iv) Implementation: Review on whether the agency responsible for impact monitoring and environmental standard enforcement programme has been specified or not, whether the institutional arrangements for implementing the recommended mitigation measures are satisfactory or not and such.
If there are comments from public then it must be made within thirty days. The ministry then shall grant approval of EIA Report within 60 or 90 days from the date of receipt of proposal.
The purpose of an IEE/EIA report is to identify and quantify impacts while proposing mitigation measures while the purpose of scoping document is to identify all the issues that should be considered by EIA. The extent and depth of impact analysis must commensurate with the nature of potential impacts.
Identification of environmental impact: Environmental impact may be categorized as direct, indirect or cumulative. Attention must be paid to the following impact categories:
a) Socioeconomic impact
b) Biological and physiochemical Impact
c) Cultural Impact
Magnitude, extent and duration of the impact shall also be predicted. Such anticipated changes or impacts should be described in quantitative or qualitative terms.
After prediction, comparing of the relative environmental impact of a project must be prepared. The framework should ascertain the magnitude, extent and duration of the types of impact associated with the project.
Normally a numerical scale should be developed in order to provide a qualitative assessment of various types of predicted impacts.
Impact Mitigation Measures: Impact mitigation measures must be adopted with the objective of reducing and removing undesirable impacts and maximizing project benefits. Consideration of alternatives, adoption of compensatory, corrective, preventative and mitigation measures. As implementation of mitigation measures requires funding, all proposed mitigation measures must be integrated in the project design so that these measures may automatically form a part of the construction and operational phases of the project.
Environmental Impact Monitoring: Environmental Impact monitoring helps to ensure that the impact does not exceed legal standards and provides timely warning of potential environmental damage.
Indicators to be used in the process of monitoring should be carefully determined. Environmental impact monitoring should be conducted at different stages as baseline monitoring, impact monitoring, compliance monitoring.
Incase during monitoring, if it is found that the actual impact is higher than the one specified in the conditions as prescribed at the time of approval of proposal, the concerned body shall issue necessary directives to the proponent to reduce or control such impact and it shall be duty of proponent to comply with such directives (Rule 13.2)
Environment Impact Auditing: It must be undertaken after the project has been operational. According to EPR, Rule 14, it must be done after 2 yrs after the commencement of the services of the proposal by Ministry. It assesses actual environmental impact, accuracy of prediction, effectiveness of environmental impact mitigation and enhancement measures and functioning of monitoring mechanisms.
The result obtained from environmental impact auditing should be made available to the project proponent and concerned agencies.