If you’re implementing a project, you may have been asked to provide an environmental impact assessment report. This may seem daunting at first, especially if you’ve never heard of one of these before. Threat not, once you understand the basics, an environmental impact assessment should be straightforward to put together.
This article will explain where an environmental impact assessment report is typically used. Where they come, why they exist, and how you can create your own.
An environmental impact assessment is a report that looks to evaluate the consequences of a project, programme or policy, prior to its implementation. The environmental impact assessment (EIA) usually applies to projects, whereas a strategic environmental assessment is typically used for policies and programmes.
The EIA essentially looks to account for environmental factors in the same way that financial costs and benefits are typically accounted for in project evaluation. They are used to proactively forecast environmental impact, ensuring accountability in the environmental impact of projects.
The environmental impact assessment is an important part of the evaluation stage of a project, as it will help inform stakeholders and decision makers on whether to go ahead with the project. Since the benefits (or negative impact) is captured, it can influence the cost-benefit analysis of a project or program. It can also serve to gain vital support for a project or programme, by informing stakeholders concerned with environmental impact.
To summarise, the environmental impact assessment may seem like extra work. It is in fact a useful exercise, and when done correctly, can really benefit your project.
To make it as simple as possible for project managers to create their environmental impact assessment report, a 6 step process can be followed. When followed, this process assures that your EIA report has considered all necessary factors.
The first step, screening, is where you are essentially assessing whether an EIA is needed. You will be considering things such as: the extent to which the project is likely to impact the environment, the level of certainty over what those impacts could be, and the severity of those impacts if they are to occur.
The screening stage is where the foundations are laid for the planning of the EA. If the EIA is being mandated by a particular body or authority, then their requirements should also be considered at this stage.
The next step involves taking what was learned in the screening process, and making this into an actionable plan. Here we will highlight areas of focus, and scheduling activities around these. Concerns about the impact on: air, water, soil and noise may have monitoring activities implemented and projections forecasted.
During this stage, we will also be dedicating adequate resources to each focus area, again, using the data that we identified during the screening phase.
At this stage, it is also helpful to bring in various stakeholders to input on the scope of the EIA. This is also a chance to address any concerns they may have, by making them aware of the mitigations that are taking place against those risks.
Since no project has unlimited resources , it is useful to consider alternatives also at this stage. Though the scope of the EIA needs to adequately address the concerns of the screening phase, where more practical options are available, they may be chosen.
Once we’ve put together a plan and scope for the environmental impact assessment, it is time to implement that plan. Here, we will be using existing data, along with gathering new data, to create a forecast of what the impacts could be.
Since it is never going to be 100% accurate, it can also be useful at this stage to indicate level of confidence, or even create different scenarios, with a best case, medium case, and worst case scenario.
The next phase involves publicising the results of the previous step. Consider the stakeholders who were engaged during step 2, and what their priorities or concerns would be regarding. It is good to tailor the messaging to them, to ensure that their concerns are addressed, and that they then become supporters of the project.
There may also be regulatory reporting required at this stage. This is dependent on the governing bodies/authorities around the project. Since this is going to be different for each industry and country, we suggest checking with your local authorities on what this may be. An example for the UK can be found here.
Once the results of the EIA have been collected and reported to the necessary stakeholders, decisions will now be made regarding whether to take the project forward. It’s important to consider different stakeholder’s viewpoints, which we’ve talked about before in another article.
You may also wish to account for expected environmental impacts in the cost-benefit ratio, if this is a tool that you’re using to evaluate whether to go ahead with the project.
The final stage is to implement a process of continued monitoring and review. As mentioned prior, the impact forecasts are never 100% accurate. It’s therefore important to keep monitoring environmental impacts, taking intervention measures where necessary, and communicating this to stakeholders.
We hope this has helped guide you on the process of writing an environmental impact assessment report. If you’d like additional help in making and continually tracking data forecasts in relation to projects, please do get in touch via our contact form.