ABSTRACT

Environmental impact assessment (EIA) refers to a process which seeks to provide the relevant decision-making authority with the requisite information on a specific project proposal enabling its likely environmental impact to be assessed before a decision is made as to its future operation. In this process the developer collects and makes available information relating to the environmental impact of a proposed project. This information, together with comments gathered in a subsequent consultation process with relevant competent authorities and the general public, is considered and taken into account by the decision-maker in deliberations as to the viability of the development. The process therefore allows a proposal’s environmental impact to be assessed in advance of the decision as to its future operation, for possible alternatives to the proposed project to be scrutinised, and for impact on the environment to be mitigated or eliminated in the event of the project being allowed to proceed. EIA is therefore anticipatory in nature seeking to minimise environmental harm and in this sense endorses the preventive principle. It is also seen as a vitally important tool to promote sustainable development by facilitating the integration of environmental protection requirements into the land-use/planning process. Where there is likely to be significant environmental impact, decisions should be made with full knowledge of relevant environmental considerations.