Early EIAs focused only or primarily on impacts on the natural or biophysical environment (such as effects on air and water quality, flora and fauna, noise levels, climate and hydrological systems). However, over time, increased consideration has been given to social, health and economic impacts. This trend has been driven partly by public involvement in the EIA process. It is reflected by the evolving definition of the term â€˜environmentâ€™ in EIA legislation, guidance and practice.
In many EIA systems, a broad definition of â€˜environmentâ€™ is adopted. This can include effects on:
- human health and safety;
- flora, fauna, ecosystems and biological diversity;
- soil, water, air, climate and landscape;
- use of land, natural resources and raw materials;
- protected areas and designated sites of scientific, historical and cultural significance;
- heritage, recreation and amenity assets; and
- livelihood, lifestyle and well being of those affected by a proposal.
Depending on the EIA system, some or all of these impacts may require analysis and evaluation. Often, however, health, social and other nonbiophysical impacts are either not considered or are inadequately addressed. An alternative approach is to undertake separate, but parallel, assessments of social, health and other impacts when they are considered to be particularly important for decision-making and not adequately addressed by EIA or other similar processes (such as risk assessment). The preferable approach is to undertake an integrated analysis.