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Environmental Impact Assessment

Environmental impact assessment (EIA) is one of the environmental assessment tools being used worldwide to provide decision-makers and the concerned public with essential information to plan for environmentally sustainable economic development. It is a systematic analysis of projects to determine their potential environmental impacts and the significance of such impacts and to propose measures to mitigate the negative impacts.

EIA is both a planning tool and a decision-making tool. As a planning tool, EIA presents methodologies and techniques for identifying, predicting, and evaluating potential environmental impacts of projects as per the project cycle. As a decision-making tool, it provides information that promotes policy-making and actions that ensure sustainability in the implemented projects. Best-practice EIA identifies environmental risks, lessens conflicts by promoting community participation, minimizes adverse environmental effects, informs decision-makers, and helps lay the base for environmentally sound projects. Benefits of integrating EIA have been observed in all stages of a project, from exploration and planning through construction, operations, decommissioning, and beyond site closure (Sinha, 1998).

EIA has a number of strengths. First, it can be a flexible process and employ a large number of evaluation methods and techniques. Second, EIA is increasingly viewed as a process, not as a mandated document. Third, EIA is becoming more commonly parallel to and part of standard prefeasibility engineering and economic studies. In general, EIA is focused on a previously selected project, and only the better EIAs consider the sector as a whole or the wider implications, such as policies.

In Kenya, where over time the natural resource base has become severely stressed due to unsustainable use, EIA has been necessitated under the Environmental Management and Coordination Act of 1999 (EMCA, 1999), which is the statutory law. Other subsequent environmental regulations and guidelines are mainly the EIA and Audit Regulations of 2003 and EIA Guidelines and Administrative Procedures of 2002.