Overview & History
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) follow-up refers to the monitoring, evaluation, management and communication of the environmental performance of a project or plan. It can also be used to refer to follow-up evaluations of EIA processes themselves. At the project level, follow-up takes place after approval decision-making and once a development activity has been implemented, although preparation and details of follow-up programs should be determined during the pre-decision stages of EIA. Follow-up is essential for determining the outcomes of impact assessment activities. By incorporating feedback into the EIA process, follow-up enables learning from experience to occur. It can and should occur in any EIA system to prevent EIA being just a pro-forma exercise.
IAIA have produced a guide to 'EIA Follow-up International Best Practice Principles' (Morrison-Saunders et al 2007) from which most of the material on this page has been drawn. A more detailed account of the principles can be found in Marshall et al (2005). The principles were developed over a period of several years through consultation, discussion and refinement at successive annual conferences of IAIA between 1999 and 2005. Since then some new case studies and articles have been published, but to date no attempt to modify or update the IAIA principles has occured.
EIA follow-up can be simply defined as the monitoring and evaluation of the impacts of a project or plan (that has been subject to EIA) for management of, and communication about, the environmental performance of that project or plan (Morrison-Saunders and Arts 2004). Thus, EIA follow-up comprises four elements (Arts et al, 2001):
- Monitoring – the collection of activity and environmental data both before (baseline monitoring) and after activity implementation (compliance and impact monitoring).
- Evaluation – the appraisal of the conformance with standards, predictions or expectations as well as the environmental performance of the activity
- Management – making decisions and taking appropriate action in response to issues arising from monitoring and evaluation activities.
- Communication – informing the stakeholders about the results of EIA follow-up in order to provide feedback on project/plan implementation as well as feedback on EIA processes.
Objectives of follow-up
EIA follow-up can be conducted at different levels based on the scale and level of analysis desired (Morrison-Saunders and Arts 2004):
- Monitoring and evaluation of EIA activities (micro-scale): This is conducted on a project by project basis and relates directly to specific components of EIA (or SEA) such as impact prediction, impact monitoring, compliance auditing, and implementation of mitigation and environmental management actions. A key question is: Was the project and the impacted environment managed in an acceptable way?
- Evaluation of EIA systems (macro-scale): This examines the effectiveness of an EIA (or SEA) system as a whole in a certain jurisdiction (for instance, the influence of the EIA process on decision-making, efficiency of EIA procedures and utility of EIA products). A key question is: How efficient and effective is a given EIA system overall?
- Evaluation of the utility of EIA (meta-scale): This is closely related to the previous level, but going a step further to determine whether EIA (or SEA) is a worthwhile activity or concept overall. A key question is: Does EIA work?
Follow-up can be applied to strategic policies, plans and programs as well as to operational projects. And follow-up is not necessarily restricted to singular activities at the local level. It can also be applied to multiple projects/plans and be undertaken at a local or regional scale.
Who does follow-up?
EIA follow-up can take many forms – ranging from proponent driven self-regulation to requirements imposed by EIA regulators or initiatives motivated by public pressure and community involvement (Morrison-Saunders et al 2001). Monitoring and evaluation may be conducted by proponents and regulators alike depending on the scale of application. Ongoing management decisions may be made by both proponents (e.g. responding to unexpected impacts) and EIA regulators (e.g. reviewing consent conditions and management requirements). Similarly both proponents and EIA regulators may engage in communication programs. Some follow-up programs extend beyond simple communication to specifically include direct stakeholder participation in the monitoring, evaluation and management steps as well. Three principle groups of stakeholders are involved in EIA follow-up whether as initiator, conductor or participant (Morrison-Saunders et al 2003). Follow-up programs driven by proponents (1st party follow-up) may also encompass voluntary, self-regulatory or industry-led initiatives such as environmental management systems. Follow-up carried out by regulators (2nd party follow-up) typically focuses on ensuring that proponents comply with EIA approval conditions as well as learning from experience to improve EIA processes in the future. Follow-up activities carried out or initiated by the community (3rd party follow-up) may range from formal committees or agencies established to oversee or sometimes conduct follow-up activities through to independent action by community members concerned about environmental effects in their neighbourhood. Involvement of the community in EIA follow-up can be an important source of specialist or local knowledge.