Initial environmental evaluation or examination (IEE)
In some EIA systems, an IEE is required when the potential environmental impacts of a proposal cannot be established by the application of standard screening procedures. Typically, an IEE is a relatively low-cost analysis that makes use of information already available. It is carried out using EIA procedures and methods, which are scaled to purpose. For example, key issues can be identified by a rapid scoping exercise, based on consultation with local people and agencies. A site or area visit should take place to survey the current situation and obtain â€˜baselineâ€™ information. Simple methods, such as a checklist or matrix, are used in impact identification and often focus on appropriate mitigation measures. Depending on its findings, the IEE report can be used either as a scoping document when a proposal is referred to a full EIA or to support environmentally sound planning and design when a proposal does not require further review.
An IEE is a preliminary EIA study that:
- describes the proposal and the environmental setting;
- considers alternatives to improve the environmental benefits;
- addresses the concerns of the local community;
- identifies the potential environmental effects;
- identifies measures to mitigate adverse impacts; and
- describes, as necessary, environmental monitoring and management plans.
The Environmental Overview was developed by UNDP as an in-house tool to integrate environmental considerations into its proposed activities at either the project or strategic level. Strictly speaking, the Environmental Overview is not equivalent to a preliminary EIA study. However, it is based on similar steps, involves key stakeholders and leads toward the same ends. An Environmental Overview can be completed quickly through the interaction of a mix of specialists. It follows a structured sequence of questions, draws primarily on the more important data sources and conforms to strict guidelines on the organisation and length of the final document.
The Environmental Overview is used by UNDP in the stage of formulating proposals. It leads to early identification of the following:
- the environmental and social baseline conditions of the target area;
- the major environmental and socio-economic impacts and opportunities associated with the implementation of the proposal;
- the modifications or alternatives to the draft proposal; and
- the measures that are necessary to address the environmental impacts and issues.
The purpose of the overview is to incorporate environmental objectives into the design of the proposal, rather than produce a report. Recently, the Environmental Overview has been promoted as an effective tool for programme design, and, specifically, one that is designed to overcome the â€˜checklist mentalityâ€™ of EIA. So far, however, the Environmental Overview has been subject to little testing outside of UNDP initiatives. A copy of the table of contents for the Environmental Overview can be found in the resource material at Environmental Overview in the EIA Wiki and may be reviewed in light of the above comments.
A class screening may be undertaken for any type of project or activity where there is a reasonably sound knowledge of the environmental effects and the mitigation measures are well established. This approach is used in certain countries, notably Canada (at both federal and provincial levels), and aspects are also evident in the EIA procedure of the World Bank (see table on page 4-3). It is applicable to small-scale projects that are routine and replicable, such as dredging, installation of culverts and realignments to an existing road.
A class screening will document the accumulated information on their likely impacts and standard mitigation practices. This report then serves as a model in the conduct of future screening of other projects of the same type. It does not relieve a proponent or competent authority of its responsibility for screening and, where necessary, of factoring additional information on site-specific and cumulative effects into a class assessment report or preparing a separate document if a project does not meet all of the previously agreed requirements for mitigation. However, in such cases, class assessment can greatly simplify and streamline the screening process.
Except where exempt by law, all proposed activities should undergo screening to determine whether or not they are subject to EIA. Because of their numbers, the screening procedure needs to be efficient, transparent and robust. In most EIA systems, the proponent or competent authority is responsible for all aspects of the screening process, from initiation to making the final decision on whether or not an EIA is necessary and, if so, at what level. Normally, this process will be undertaken in compliance with the applicable EIA legislation and requirements.
Leading EIA systems have established a number of procedural â€˜checks and balancesâ€™ for this purpose. They include provision for:
- public notification and record of screening decisions;
- access to relevant information and documentation; and in some cases
- right or avenue of third party appeal for those who consider that the
screening procedure has been applied inappropriately.
Usually, screening has one of four outcomes:
- no further EIA requirement applies â€“ the proposal will have an insignificant impact;
- a preliminary EIA study is required â€“ the proposal will have an environmental impact that must be addressed but can be mitigated;
- a full or comprehensive EIA is required to complete the screening process â€“ the proposal will have a potentially significant environmental impact; or
- an IEE is required â€“ the potential environmental effects of the proposal are unclear or uncertain.
Certain types of proposals often fall automatically into one of these particular categories. For instance, large dams, power stations and oil refineries are nearly always environmentally significant and require full EIA. By contrast, social development or community health proposals rarely demand further assessment. An extended screening process (or IEE) may be undertaken for proposals for which the potential environmental impact cannot be identified readily.
For proposals that require full or further EIA, the next step in the process is to identify the key issues and impacts that need to be analysed. This process of defining the issues to be considered is called â€˜scopingâ€™. It is dealt with next in Section 5â€“ Scoping.