A pre-decision review of the EIA report is a key means of â€˜quality control and assuranceâ€™ in the EIA process. It allows an external check on the proponentâ€™s â€˜self-assessmentâ€™ of the proposal. This is a formal procedure in many EIA systems, which may be undertaken by the responsible authority itself, another government agency or committee or an independent body. Despite significant differences, their common function is to check that the draft EIA report complies with applicable requirements and/or is consistent with accepted standards of good practice.
Whatever procedure is followed, a rigorous approach is necessary, given that the central role of EIA review is to assure the quality of the information prepared. This approach can be based on explicit guidelines and criteria for review, or if these are not available, draw on EIA principles, objectives and terms of references. Over time, their systematic application should improve the general standard of EIA reports by making proponents aware of government or agency expectations.
The elements of EIA review and the aspects considered differ with the arrangements that are in place in a particular country. A comprehensive review of the adequacy and quality of an EIA report would address many or all of the following issues:
- Does the report address the Terms of Reference?
- Is the necessary information provided for each major component of the EIA report?
- Is the information correct and technically sound?
- Have the views and concerns of affected and interested parties been taken into account?
- Is the statement of the key findings complete and satisfactory, e.g. for significant impacts, proposed mitigation measures, etc.?
- Is the information clearly presented and understandable by decision makers and the public?
- Is the information relevant and sufficient for the purpose of decision making and condition setting? The response to the last question is the most significant aspect for review conclusions, and will largely determine whether or not an EIA can be submitted as is or with minor revisions.