5-3 Approaches to scoping

A systematic and transparent approach should be taken to sifting and paring down the concerns, issues and impacts. This can be undertaken in three steps:

  1. Compile a ‘long list’ of concerns from the information available and the inputs of stakeholders. No attempt should be made at this stage to exclude or pre-judge concerns.
  2. Derive a ‘short list’ of key issues and problem areas based on their potential significance and likely importance for decision-making on the proposal. This phase involves evaluating the issues against selected criteria; for example, differentiating serious risks or threats from effects that can be mitigated (see Section 6 – Impact Analysis and Section 7 – Mitigation and Impact Management for further information).
  3. Classify and order the key issues into ‘impact categories’ by reference to policy objectives and scientific concepts, such as emission levels that may exceed health or environmental standards. Such a synthesis or aggregation provides a coherent framework for drafting the Terms of Reference for the EIA study.

The table below contains an indicative list of activities to be carried out when scoping in accordance with this approach. The list begins with ‘getting ready’ by preparing a profile of the scope under key headings and using this as a basis for informal consultations with key stakeholders. Once this round of discussion has occurred, the three steps described above take place with iterations between them. Finally, the Terms of Reference are established, with provision for adjustment and feedback as and when necessary during the EIA process.

In practice, the first phase of scoping – opening out the list of concerns and issues – is much easier to achieve than the next two. With few exceptions, most EIA systems experience difficulties in narrowing down and focusing on the issues that matter. This imposes certain limitations when preparing Terms of Reference, with potential knock on effects on the next stage of work on the EIA study. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the proponent or competent authority to bring the scoping process to a conclusion.

Indicative list of scoping activities
Activity Items
(As stated these steps are only indicative, and should be tailored to meet the requirements of the particular situation.)
Getting ready

1. Prepare a preliminary or outline scope with headings such as:

  • objectives and description of the proposal
  • the policy context and environmental setting
  • data and information sources, constraints etc.
  • alternatives to the proposal
  • concerns, issues and effects identified to date
  • provision for public involvement
  • timetable for scoping, EIA and decision making
2. Develop the outline scope by informal consultation and by assembling available information, identifying information gaps, etc.
3. Make the provisional scope and supporting information available to the public. 
Undertaking scoping

4. Draw up a long list of the range of issues and concerns. 
5. Evaluate their relative importance and significance to derive a short list of key issues. 
6. Organise the key issues into the impact categories to be studied. 
Completion and continuity

7. Amend the outline scope to progressively incorporate the information from each stage.
8. Establish the Terms of Reference for the EIA, including information requirements, study guidelines, methodology and protocols for revising work.
9. Monitor progress against the ToR, making adjustments as needed and provide feedback to stakeholders and the public.

Depending upon the EIA system, responsibility for scoping may lie with the proponent, with the competent authority, or with the EIA agency or an independent body set up for the purpose. In many cases, some form of guidance will be given on the conduct of scoping, the procedures to be followed and the methods that can be used to undertake the consultative and technical components of this activity. For specific proposals, it may be possible to draw upon previous experience, represented by existing scoping documentation for a similar proposal, or generic or sector guidelines and checklists. None of these aids, however, replace the need for designing a scoping process for each proposal and its likely consequences.

A custom-tailored scoping process will include an overview or profile of the proposal, the environment and community that is likely to be affected, the possible alternatives, the range of potential impacts, and the ways these may be mitigated or managed. In addition, the following should be addressed:

  • geographical area(s) and the time-frame(s) for impact analysis;
  • the policy and institutional frameworks under which the EIA will be conducted;
  • existing information sources, gaps and constraints on methodology;
  • the scheduling of the EIA study, and the allocation of resources and responsibilities; and
  • the relationship to the decision-making process – including modification of design and selection of alternatives – as well as final approval of the proposal.

The use of impact models or cause-effect frameworks may be helpful during scoping of large-scale proposals, which have a wide range of potentially complex effects on the environment. But they can also have value in other cases where it is sometimes easy to overlook long-term and secondary impacts of proposals. For example, waste discharged into the air or waterways can extend a long way beyond the boundaries of a project, and heavy metals can bio-accumulate in species and food chains. The identification of such potential impacts can be assisted by a systematic consideration of the various phases of the project life cycle, from construction through operation to decommissioning.

A proposed plan for public involvement in the EIA process (including the scoping phase) should be prepared. Early consideration should be given to the means of informing and involving the people who are likely to be directly affected by or interested in a proposal. A first step is to draw up a list of participants who should be involved in scoping. Both the overall approach to scoping and the mechanisms for consultation need to take into account local values, traditions and culture (see Section 3 – Public Involvement).

July 27, 2006 Uncategorized — @ 4:57 pm


  1. This is really very good and useful information but can the proponent collect to much information too early for scoping and if yes what are the likely consequences.

    Comment by kareem Dyer — March 29, 2007 @ 9:52 am

  2. The module was really helpful in understanding the process of EIA.

    It was really self explanatory.

    Comment by Neha Aggarwal — July 2, 2009 @ 1:34 pm

  3. The module on EIA was self explanatory & informative.

    Comment by Neha Aggarwal — July 2, 2009 @ 1:35 pm

  4. EIA details are very good and examples used with videos are very interesting and informative.

    Comment by Suresh Jain — August 6, 2009 @ 10:04 pm

  5. the document help me a lot in my field of Engineering in relation to EIA

    Comment by Mathayo BARIKIEL — April 7, 2011 @ 9:37 pm

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