Background of Environmental Impact Assessment and Management


The whole world is focused on sustainability, and in Africa, a developing continent, there is much development taking place in terms of infrastructure, mining, manufacturing, and agriculture. These developments, if not carefully managed, could have a negative impact on the environment (World Business Council for Sustainable Development, 2005). Implementation of environmental impact assessments (EIAs) and environmental management plans (EMPs) then becomes critical.


The major steps in the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process are:

i. Screening

ii. Prospecting

iii. Scoping

iv. Full-scale EIA development, review and monitoring


Screening is the process used to determine whether a proposed project requires an EIA and, if so, what level of environmental review is necessary. It also identifies those projects or activities that may cause potential significant impacts (Modak and Biswas, 1999). In addition, it identifies special conditions/analyses that may be required by international funding bodies before conducting the full EIA. The screening process further categorizes the projects to indicate where:

i. A full-scale EIA is required

ii. Some further environmental analysis is required

iii. No further environmental analysis is required

Examples of projects that need full EIAs include but are not limited to:

i. Infrastructure projects

ii. Large-scale industrial activities

iii. Resource extractive industries and activities

iv. Waste management and disposal

v. Substantial changes in farming or fishing practices

The initial screening criteria typically consider:

i. Project type, location, size (e.g. capital investment, number of people affected, project capacity, areal extent)

ii. Receiving environment characteristics

iii. Strength of community opinion

iv. Confidence in prediction of impacts

The project screening checklist should include a section regarding site location, characteristics, including, at a minimum, the four categories of environmentally critical areas also classified as highly sensitive areas:

i. National parks

ii. Indigenous people’s areas

iii. Tourist areas

iv. Ecologically sensitive areas

Site selection defines the location of the study area and the specific environmental resource base to be examined. The most important factor is to look at all components contributing to a project’s potential negative impacts (Ahmad and Sammy, 1987). Existing regional development plans should be used as guides to select project locations where environmental conditions will be minimally impacted.

Prospectus Generation and Impact Identification

Initial prospectus document generation is intended as a low-cost environmental evaluation that makes use of information already available. The prospectus describes the proposed project or activity, examines alternatives, identifies and addresses community concerns to the fullest possible extent, identifies and assesses potential environmental effects, thereby directing future actions of the proposed project (Lee, 1995); and identifies all potential environmental concerns relating to a proposed project or activity, thereby establishing a focus for follow-up studies for the comprehensive EIA. The initiation of the prospectus document results in the following project classifications:

i. No requirement for further environmental study; proposal not anticipated to have significant impact

ii. Limited environmental study needed; environmental impacts are known and can be easily mitigated

iii. Full-scale EIA required; impacts unknown or likely to be significant

In order to establish the potential significant issues for any project in question, it is important to first identify valued environmental/ecosystem components. This can be done through hiring professional consultants, reviewing past experience and legislative requirements, assessing stakeholder and community values, as well as practical identification of the potential impacts of the project. The prospecting stage also identifies the potential for cumulative impacts (i.e. to the site as a whole and to the region). The commonly considered valued environmental ecosystems are:

i. Natural physical resources (e.g. surface and groundwater, air, climate, and soil)

ii. Natural biological resources (e.g. forests, wetlands, river, and lake ecology)

iii. Economic development resources (e.g. agriculture, industry, infrastructure, and tourism)

iv. Quality of life (e.g. public health, socioeconomic, cultural, and aesthetics)

v. National commitments (e.g. endangered species protection)

The potential impacts during the prospecting stage can be identified using matrices (sectorial or project type), checklists, professional expertise, past experience with similar type projects, or a combination of techniques. Various information that is required during the prospectus development includes the project type, size and location, the areas of potential impact (such as physical, biological, and economic development resources, as well as quality of life and other existing or planned projects).

The prospectus document can be developed using various sources; information such as existing reports on environmental resources in the area, previous assessment reports, prospectuses, and EIA reports generated on similar type projects, reports on other projects in the region that may cause similar disturbances; regional planning, policy, and other reports; field studies; and local citizens’ and traditional knowledge can be used. The impacts from the proposed project can be classified based on their effects as follows:

i. Nature: positive, negative, direct, indirect, cumulative, synergistic

ii. Magnitude

iii. Extent/location: area/volume covered, distribution

iv. Timing: during construction, operation, decommissioning, immediate, delayed, rate of change

v. Duration: short-term, long-term, intermittent, continuous

vi. Reversibility/irreversibility

vii. Likelihood: risk, uncertainty, or confidence in the predictions

The criteria for evaluating environmental effects can be based on importance of affected resource, magnitude and extent of disturbance, duration and frequency, risk/likelihood of occurrence, reversibility and contribution to cumulative impacts. In summary, the details in a prospectus report which will feed into the EIA will contain the following:

i. Description of the project

ii. Description of the environmentiii. Screening of potential environmental issues and rationale for their significance grading

iv. Environmental protection measures

v. Environmental monitoring and institutional requirements

vi. Recommendations for further studies

vii Conclusion


Scoping is a process of interaction between the consultant, government agencies, other relevant stakeholders, and project proponents. During the scoping phase, the following items are identified:

i. Spatial and temporal boundaries for the EIA

ii. Important project issues and concerns

iii. Information necessary for decision-making

iv. Significant effects and factors to be considered

v. Terms of reference for full-scale EIA development

Project scoping is critical as it serves to facilitate an efficient EIA by identifying appropriate areas for consideration (e.g. key issues, concerns, alternatives). Furthermore, it reduces the likelihood of deficiencies in the EIA, ensuring that important issues are not overlooked. Scoping also prevents unnecessary expenditures and time delays from oversights or unnecessary areas of study. During scoping, the background information of the project is given and this normally comprises the project description (i.e. type, magnitude, location, alternatives, and constraints), environmental setting (i.e., delineation of study area and list of environmental resources and sensitive areas) and background reports (e.g. aspects of the environmental setting and previous projects with relevant impacts or resources).

Full-Scale EIA Development, Review, and Monitoring

The EIA will comprise of all the items listed below for the project under review. The impacts and their significance are assessed, using both qualitative and quantitative methods. The summary of the EIA process is shown in Figure 1.1.

The mitigation development phase and the appropriate mitigation measures are then recommended. The impacts during the EIA development can be identified through the following qualitative and quantitative methods: checklists, matrices, networks, geographic information systems (GIS), expert systems, and risk assessment. The advantages and disadvantages of the various methods are shown in Table 1.1. The specific EIA requirements typically include the following:

i. EIA objectives

ii. Legal and governmental policy requirements

iii. Significant environmental issues of concern

The EIA process algorithm

FIGURE 1.1 The EIA process algorithm.


Methods Used for Determining Impacts during ElAs Development





Simple to understand and use

Good for site selection and priority-setting

Do not distinguish between direct and indirect impacts

Do not link action and impact



Link action to impact

Good method for displaying EIA results

Difficult to distinguish direct and indirect impacts

Significant potential for doublecounting of impacts


Link action to impact

Useful in simplified form in checking for second-order impacts

Handles direct and indirect impacts

Can become overly complex if used beyond simplified version



Easy to understand and use Good display method Good for site selection

Addresses only direct impacts

Does not address impact duration or probability


Excellent for impact identification and analysis

Heavy reliance on knowledge and


Good for experimenting

Semi-quantitative to quantitative


Often complex and expensive

iv. Required information and data methodologies for impact assessment

v. Process for incorporating public input through consultations

vi. Impacts identification, their significance, and mitigation

vii. Environmental management plan for all the phases

The impact determination method is based on the type and size of the proposal, type of alternatives being assessed, nature of likely impacts, experience using EIA methods, and the resources available, as well as the nature of public involvement and the procedural/administrative requirements. The significance of the environmental impact is determined as below.

Impactcharacteristics (spatial extent)x Impactimportance (e.g. value)


The characteristics affecting impact significance include the nature of the impact (e.g. positive, negative, synergistic), the extent and magnitude, timing (i.e. construction operation and closure), and duration (i.e. short, chronic, intermittent). Factors such as reversibility/irreversibility of the impact and likelihood (i.e. probability, uncertainty) of it occurring are also important. Significance criteria include:

i. Importance: the value that is attached to the affected environmental component

ii. Extent of disturbance: the area expected to be impacted

iii. Duration and frequency of disturbance

iv. Reversibility

v. Risk: probability of an unplanned incident caused by the project

The significance of each impact is based on considerable expert judgment and technical knowledge, which are often required to fully understand the nature and extent of environmental impacts. The categories for significance include no impact, unknown impact, significant impact, mitigated impact, and insignificant impact. For assessment of the significance of the impacts it is important to:

i. Use rational and objective methods

ii. Provide consistency for comparison of project alternatives

iii. Document values and beliefs used in making judgment decisions

iv. Apply the following impact significance criteria:

a. Ecological importance/sustainability criteria

b. Social importance

c. Environmental standards


African countries are implementing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the various economic areas. For the SDGs to be completely realized, environmental management is very important (IS014040, 2006). In this work, various developmental projects from infrastructure, mining, logistics, manufacturing, recycling, and social services were considered, and the EIAs and EMPs were developed for implementation, depending on the nature of the project.



EIAs provide the means by which to make informed decisions regarding development of the environment. As such, their implementation is of paramount importance in the effort to promote sustainable development and preserve the environment for future generations. Although every development project comes with negative impacts to the environment, EIAs help to strike a balance between negative impact mitigation and positive impact maximization.


EIAs must be done for all key projects. This is crucial for promoting green and sustainable development that will result in responsible management of the environment in developing countries.


Ahmad, Y. J. and Sammy, G. K. (1987). Guidelines to Environmental Impact Assessment in Developing Countries. UNEP Regional Seas Reports and Studies No. 85, UNEP.

IS014040 (2006). International Organization for Standardizations: Environmental Management - Life Cycle Assessment-Principles and Frameworks. Geneva, Switzerland. [5] DIN 53183 (1973) Paints. Varnishes and Similar Products.

Lee, N. (1995). Environmental Assessment in European Union: A Tenth Anniversary Project Appraisal 7. 123-136.

Modak, P. and Biswas, A. K. (1999). Conducting Environmental Impact Assessment for Developing Countries. Tokyo: New York: United Nations University Press.

World Business Council for Sustainable Development (2005). Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) Guidelines, 54 pp.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >