8-3 Shortcomings encountered in Preparing EIA Reports


An EIA report should be complete, easily understood, objective, factual and internally consistent. These objectives are difficult to achieve in a process that involves many contributors working to tight deadlines. Even so, far too many EIA reports fall short of meeting their basic purpose of providing the necessary and relevant information for decision-making and clearly communicating key findings to the public and other interested parties.

Higher standards could be achieved by addressing some of the shortcomings and deficiencies that are commonly found in EIA reports. The following list was compiled primarily from the experience of the Netherlands EIA Commission, which is an independent body responsible for the review of EIA reports.

Shortcomings and Deficiencies of EIA reports and Reporting examples
Shortcoming EIA Reporting Example
Source: Netherlands EIA Commission
The need for a project cannot be justified An EIA report substantiates the need for offshore exploratory drilling in a remote and sensitive Arctic Sound primarily in terms of energy security and economic development. The broader opportunity costs of opening the area to development are overlooked.
The objective and alternatives are too narrowly stated An EIA report on a proposed by-pass road identifies the objective as relieving traffic congestion, failing to consider broader transport issues and alternatives.
The description of the proposal does not cover the key features An EIA report describes the proposed construction of an industrial plant but omits information about construction of a pipeline and other facilities to transport and handle raw materials and finished products to and from the plant.
Selection of alternatives does not take into account environmental aspects The EIA report on a car racing circuit in a coastal dune landscape only considers alternatives meeting motor sport requirements, visitor ‘needs’ and public safety regulations. It overlooks environmental considerations, such as noise abatement, protection of land surface and dune ecology.
Key problems affected by the proposal are not described An EIA report describes the proposed construction of a coal-fired power plant using surface water as cooling medium. It does not divulge that the surface water body is already used by other industrial activities for this purpose to the limit of its cooling capacity.
Sensitive elements in the affected environment are overlooked An EIA report for a pipeline project does not indicate that the proposed alignment will dissect certain areas of ecological value.
Environmental target values and standards are not properly taken into account An EIA report for an extension of an airport describes the impacts up to the standard of 25 per cent of people seriously affected by aircraft noise, whereas the target value aims at 10 per cent of people seriously affected.
Alternatives do not comply with environmental regulations and standards An EIA report for a sanitary landfill indicates that the soil types in the area are very diverse, ranging from sand and clay to peat. The alternatives do not take into account the large differences in compaction and subsidence of these soil types, with subsequent failure of underlining and drainage systems.
Appropriate mitigating measures are not considered An EIA report for a sanitary landfill does not describe a system for collecting methane gas produced in the landfill, even though greenhouse gas emissions contribute to climate warming and should be capped at current levels.
The alternative offering the best protection to the environment is not described or insufficiently described An EIA report for a bridge or seabed tunnel across an estuary does not examine the alternative of a drilled tunnel underneath the estuary, which will have a much lower adverse impact on the environment.
Serious environmental impacts or risks are not described or are incorrectly described An EIA report for a sanitary landfill in an area with very variable soil conditions does not describe the environmental risks and consequences of a possible failure of the underlying sealing and drainage systems.
Insufficient or outdated prediction models are used An EIA report on an urban development scheme makes use of a mobility prediction model using national averages, although local data is available and would permit a more precise prediction to be made.
When comparing alternatives, incorrect conclusions are drawn An EIA report for a regional management plan for the disposal of municipal sewage sludge compares various alternative methods for disposal. One alternative involves composting the sludge into a low-grade soil additive. The comparison of the alternatives in the EIA report describes this method as an important form of disposal because it greatly reduces sludge volume. However, no account is taken of the limited potential for use of the product due to the high heavy metal content of the sludge.

July 26, 2006 Uncategorized — brendan @ 1:00 pm

4 Comments »

  1. Quite often there are concerns from the public regarding the true independence of the EIA Team from the developer, considering that the EIA Team is commissioned and paid by the developer.
    Any advice please.

    Comment by Vincent Gauci — November 28, 2008 @ 9:59 pm

  2. Vincent,

    Good point. While most EIA Teams seek to be as objective as possible, there will also be the risk of the client placing pressure on the consultants to get what they want.

    However, we have to hope that there are enough checks and balances in place to ensure that such bias is easily identifiable and avoided.

    The system is far from perfect, but it is the best we have.

    Comment by brendan — December 3, 2008 @ 3:32 pm

  3. we are all know that it is the best we have at the moment but we can still make it better by introduction of more stringent measures to neutral the effect of bias on the entire report.

    Comment by KINGSLEY EFEKALAM — January 29, 2009 @ 6:11 am

  4. I found this section particularly useful.
    Thank you.

    Comment by Eva Romer — September 18, 2009 @ 4:38 pm

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