EIA Operating Principles

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The following are EIA operating principles of good practice and performance amended from Sadler 1996.

EIA should be applied:

  • to all proposals likely to cause potentially significant adverse impacts or add to actual or potentially foreseeable cumulative effects;
  • so that the scope of review is consistent with the size of the proposal and commensurate with the likely issues and impacts;
  • to provide timely and appropriate opportunities for public and stakeholder involvement, with particular attention given to indigenous peoples and other vulnerable minorities whose cultural traditions and way of life may be at risk; and
  • in accordance with the legislation, procedure and guidance in force and with reference to international standards of EIA good practice.

EIA should be undertaken:

  • throughout the project cycle, beginning as early as possible in the pre-feasibility stage;
  • with explicit reference to the requirements for decision-making and project approval and authorization consistent with the application of ‘best practicable’ science and mitigation techniques;
  • in accordance with proposal-specific terms of reference, which should include clearly defined tasks, responsibilities, requirements for information and agreed timelines for their completion; and
  • to gain the inputs and views of all those affected by or interested in the proposal and/or its environmental impacts.

EIA should address, as necessary and appropriate:

  • all relevant environmental impacts, including land use, social, cultural, economic, health and safety effects;
  • cumulative effects and area-wide, ecosystem-level and global changes that may occur as a result of the interaction of the proposal with other past, current or foreseeable activities;
  • alternatives to the proposal, including design, location, demand and activity alternatives;
  • mitigation measures for each of the main impacts identified; and
  • sustainability considerations, including the effects of depletion of non-renewable resources, of exceeding the regenerative and assimilative capacity of renewable resources and of reduction of biological diversity, taking account of relevant international agreements and commitments.

EIA should result in:

  • systematic identification of the views and inputs of those consulted, including the balance of opinion on major issues and areas of agreement and disagreement;
  • comparison of the impacts of the main alternatives considered with an environmental justification for the preferred option;
  • best estimate prediction and evaluation of the potentially significant residual effects that cannot be mitigated;
  • feasible, cost-effective measures to mitigate the main impacts identified (often called an environmental management plan);
  • preparation of an EIA report that presents this information in form that is clear, understandable and relevant for decision-making, noting any important qualifications for the predictions made and mitigation measures proposed; and
  • resolution of problems and conflicts during the EIA process to the extent this is possible.

EIA should provide the basis for:

  • informed decision-making and project approvals, in which the terms and conditions are clearly specified and implemented;
  • design of environmentally sound and acceptable projects that meet health and environmental standards and resource management objectives;
  • appropriate follow-up, including monitoring, management and auditing, to check for unforeseen impacts or mitigation measures that do not work as intended; and
  • future improvements in EIA process and practice, drawing on the information from follow up activities.


  • Sadler B (1996) Environmental Assessment in a Changing World: Evaluating Practice to Improve Performance. (Final Report of the International Study of the Effectiveness of Environmental Assessment). Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and International Association for Impact Assessment, Ottawa, Canada.

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