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In-Depth Jobs


Volume-51

Career in Environment Impact Assessment

Dr. Pawan Kumar Bharti

Environment Impact Assessment or EIA can be defined as the study to predict the effect of a proposed activity/project on the environment. A decision making tool, EIA compares various alternatives for a project and seeks to identify the one which represents the best combination of economic and environmental costs and benefits.

Environmental Assessment (EA) is the term used for the assessment of the environmental consequences (positive and negative) of a plan, policy, program or project prior to the decision to move forward with the proposed action. In this context, the term ‘Environmental Impact Assessment’ (EIA) is usually used when applied to concrete projects and the term ‘strategic environmental assessment’ applies to policies, plans and programmes.

Environmental assessments may be governed by rules of administrative procedure regarding public participation and documentation of decision making, and may be subject to judicial review.

The purpose of the assessment is to ensure that decision makers consider the environmental impacts when deciding whether or not to proceed with a project. The International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA) defines an environmental impact assessment as “the process of identifying, predicting, evaluating and mitigating the biophysical, social, and other relevant effects of development proposals prior to major decisions being taken and commitments made.” EIAs are unique in that they do not require adherence to a predetermined environmental outcome, but rather they require decision makers to account for environmental values in their decisions and to justify those decisions in light of detailed environmental studies and public comments on the potential environmental impacts.

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is an important management tool for ensuring optimal use of natural resources for sustainable development. A beginning in this direction was made in our country with the impact assessment of river valley projects in 1978-79 and the scope has subsequently been enhanced to cover other developmental sectors such as industries, thermal power projects, mining schemes etc. To facilitate collection of environmental data and preparation of management plans, guidelines have been evolved and circulated to the concerned Central and State Government Departments. EIA has now been made mandatory under the Environmental (Protection Act, 1986 for 29 categories of developmental activities involving investments of Rs. 50 crores and above.

With a view to ensure multi-disciplinary input required for environmental appraisal of development projects, Expert Committees have been constituted for the following sectors:

*Mining Projects
*Industrial Projects
*Thermal Power Projects
*River Valley, Multipurpose, Irrigation and H.E. Projects
*Infrastructure Development and Miscellaneous Projects
*Nuclear Power Projects

Process:

Once an application has been submitted by a project authority alongwith all the requisite documents specified in the EIA Notification, it is scrutinised by the technical staff of the Ministry prior to placing it before the Environmental Appraisal Committees. The Appraisal Committees evaluate the impact of the project based on the data furnished by the project authorities and if necessary, site visits or on-the-spot assessment of various environmental aspects are also undertaken. Based on such examination, the Committees make recommendations for approval or rejection of the project, which are then processed in the Ministry for approval or rejection.

In case of site specific projects such as Mining, River Valley, Ports and Harbours etc., a two stage clearance procedure has been adopted whereby the project authorities have to obtain site clearance before applying for environmental clearance of their projects. This is to ensure avoiding areas which are ecologically fragile and environmentally sensitive. In case of projects where complete information has been submitted by the project proponents, a decision is taken within 90 days.

The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) should be prepared on the basis of the existing background pollution levels vis-a-vis contributions of pollutants from the proposed plant. The project may be of two categories according to size/capacity or importance i.e. Category A and category B. The EIA should address some of the basic factors listed below:

Meteorology and air quality (Ambient levels of pollutants such as Sulphur Dioxide, oxides of nitrogen, carbon monoxide, suspended particulate matters, should be determined at the center and at 3 other locations on a radius of 10 km with 120 degrees angle between stations. Additional contribution of pollutants at the locations are required to be predicted after taking into account the emission rates of the pollutants from the stacks of the proposed plant, under different meteorological conditions prevailing in the area.)

*Hydrology and water quality
*Site and its surroundings
*Occupational safety and health
*Details of the treatment and disposal of effluents(liquid,air and solid) and the methods of alternative uses
*Transportation of raw material and details of material handling
*Control equipment and measures proposed to be adopted

EIA and opportunities

As a profession, FAE/PC is very important in EIA studies, as people are concerned about the core subject(s) related to Environmental Sciences.

Traditionally, job opportunities in EIA sector include positions in academia, government, environmental consulting.  Many of these consultancies have an aging work force and are engaged in a long term hiring trend to replace retirees. Job opportunities in the field of EIA are excellent with the right educational preparation. EIA experts explore the project area, its processes, predict and suggest remedial measures for negative impacts of a proposed activity, plant or project.

EIA is a specific field, and career tracks are generally determined by specialization and level of education obtained. EIA experts can get specialization work in Air Pollution & Control, Air Modelling, Water Pollution & Control, Hydrology, Soil Science, Meteorology, Geology, Hazardous Waste management, Noise and Vibration, Rainwater Harvesting, Ecology and Biodiversity, Socio-economic Study, Risk Assessment, etc.

Higher Studies/research work may provide global opportunities in various National/International Studies like, Himalayan Studies, South Ocean drilling program, Arctic Mission, Antarctic Mission, etc.  

Basic Eligibility:

EIA is a field that requires candidates from various interdisciplinary scientific branches. Science or even social science graduates can make career in their interests. Various degree/diploma courses are conducted by various universities/institutions in India and abroad. One can pursue different courses/degree in the field of Sciences. Few major eligibility criteria are given below:

*B.Sc.- in General Science or Biological Sciences, Natural Science
*M.Sc.- in Environment, Chemistry, Geology or equivalent
*M.Tech.-in Environmental Engineering, Remote Sensing & GIS, Geoinformatics,
*PG Dip. - in Geoinformatics, Pollution Control, Remote Sensing & GIS,
*Ph.D.-in Environmental Science, Environmental Engineering, Chemistry or equivalent

Institution/NGO/Consultancy

There are many institutions/consultancies, where one can build one’s career and/or continue the study/research work also. Apart from the study centres established in governmental organization, there are many private consultancies, MNCs and NGOs, which are working in the field of EIA. Maximum can be accessed online on the respective websites. Accredited organizations can be observed on the official website of QCI, NABET.

QCI-NABET:

As per QCI-NABET, EIA is a statutory requirement for most developmental and industrial activities in our country. It is also being progressively used by financial institutions to assess the soundness of investment in a given project.

National Accreditation Board for Education & Training (NABET), a constituent board of the QCI has developed a voluntary accreditation Scheme with inputs from various stakeholders including experts in the field, regulatory agencies, consultants etc., and launched it in August 2007. Some of the leading consultants in the field obtained accreditation under the scheme. The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) reviewed the scheme in 2009 and desired that the Scheme be updated incorporating the learning since launching of the Scheme. The Scheme was made mandatory.

As per NABET scheme, the following may be the job titles in any EIA firm:
*EIA Coordinator (EC)
*Associate EIA Coordinator (AEC) for category A
*Functional Area Experts (FAEs)
*Functional Area Associate (FAA)
*Team Members (TM)
*Mentors

Scope and career:
After pursuing a suitable degree or diploma or PG in Sciences from an approved university or similar institutions, the candidate can choose any of the given options as per his qualification, interest and potential. People can choose full time or part time employment in the field of EIA; they may be in-house expert or empanelled expert.
The most popular occupations for part-time career in EIA are given below:
*Environmental Manager -  for EIA studies in consultancies
*Scientist/Analyst - in Government or private Research Institute/Organiz-ations/Testing laboratories
*Scientific Officer – in scientific governmental organizations or NGOs
*Lecturer/Professor- in University or academic Institution
*Lab in-charge – in testing laboratories
*Assistant Manager - in corporate various groups
*Consultant – in consultancy, NGOs or similar firms

Apart from these, candidate can make his/her career in many other related  jobs/posts. Candidate can start his career in the field of EIA and can start his own consultancy firm. EIA is one of the fast growing disciplines and having tremendous full time or additional opportunities for enthusiastic candidates.
(Author is a well known environmentalist & freelance writer. He was the member of 30th Indian Scientific Expedition to Antarctica during 2010-11. e-mail: gurupawanbharti@rediffmail.com) Address for Correspondence:
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