In concluding the scoping process, the preparation of Terms of Reference (ToR) for an EIA is an important task. Alternatively, or as a supplement to ToR, a formal scoping report may be issued (especially useful if the issues and/or process are controversial). In some EIA systems, the proponent prepares a more informal document to summarise the conclusions of scoping and the approach to be taken by an EIA study. The test for Terms of Reference (or its equivalent) lies in its usefulness to and robustness in successive stages of the EIA process.
A number of international agencies have issued sample or framework Terms of Reference, including the OECD Development Assistance Committee (pdf link) and the World Bank (in the EIA Wiki) These and other generic documents outline the types of information to be included in a ToR or equivalent document. When reviewing these, it is important to remember that Terms of Reference provide guidance and direction to the proponent. The document should be comprehensive yet as concise as possible. Many of the 2 components listed below will occupy a paragraph or less.
Terms of Reference for a full EIA can refer to some or all of the following items:
- purpose and application of the Terms of Reference;
- statement of need for and objectives of the proposal;
- project background and description;
- study area or impact zone(s) (e.g. the affected environment and community);
- applicable policy and institutional considerations;
- EIA requirements and decision-making particulars;
- provisions for public involvement;
- alternatives to be examined;
- the impacts and issues to be studied;
- the studies to be carried out (e.g. approach, time & space boundaries);
- the requirements for mitigation and monitoring;
- the information and data to be included in the EIA report;
- the timeframe for completion of the EIA process; and
- the means for making changes to the ToR if necessary.
The Terms of Reference can also contain various matters relating to EIA project management. Alternatively, these may be contained in a separate brief or specification drawn up by the proponent for the study team. The following particulars might be included:
- the proposed study schedule;
- the resources and estimated budget for the study;
- the activities and responsibilities of the study team;
- the expected outputs or deliverables from the study team; and
- the basis on which variations to the working brief will be negotiated.