EIA is a huge process, and naturally, it involves a whole lot of people. Each have a role to play in the entire EIA process, and here, we’ll take a look at the major stakeholders and how they contribute.
- Project Proponent
If not the most important of all stakeholders, they are definitely the reason EIAs exist. If not for their shameless pursuit of money and disregard for everything else, there would be no need for EIA and I’d still be scratching my head thinking of blog ideas. The project proponents are any company/entity that want to start a major project. They can be established MNCs or start-ups or even individuals (in case of building a house, etc).
- Government authorities
They are the monitors of the EIA class, so to speak. They oversee the entire process of EIA, step in and alter anything they feel is not up to the mark, check the EIA report and finally decide whether to accept or reject the project proposed. Without an Environmental Clearance issued by the govt. no project can proceed from the blueprint stage.
The level of govt. active in a particular project depends on the scale of the project. Major infrastructure of industrial projects need approval from the Central Govt., while smaller projects need to get permission from the State Govt. authorities.
The state and the central govt. has a branch to deal with EIA and EC specifically. They come under the Ministry for Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
Further, any project needs to obtain an NOC from every govt. agency that remotely concerns their project. For example, if an industry is to be established near a river, the project proponents need NOC from the state/central pollution control board, water control board, wildlife authorities, land authorities, forest authorities, protected area authorities (if the proposed project overlaps such an area) etc. Without an NOC from even one of these agencies, the project will not see daylight.
- Expert Appraisal Committee
This committee comprises of 15 members who are experts in various scientific and social fields, and they are the backbone of the EIA study. They conduct the study, and determine all possible impacts of the project, it’s extent and how to mitigate them. They compile the final EIA report, which is submitted to the govt. for approval.
The project proponents can further include an EIA consultant from their side to oversee the work of the appraisal committee and ensure that it is impartial and accurate.
- Affected people
Often the most ignored stakeholder, the people living in the project area, or people whose livelihoods are directly affected because of a proposed project are the largest stakeholder in terms of numbers. They are generally rural people who lead simple lives and live off the natural resources that surround them.
Unfortunately, due to their lack of knowledge and lack of exposure to the world, they are easily exploited by the project proponents to ensure they do not pose any roadblocks in the EIA process.
- Social activist groups
These groups are important because most times, they represent the affected people during the EIA process, and ensure that the EIA is done in the right way and there is no foul play. Often, they are opposed to the project entirely, and campaign tirelessly to ensure the project never gets off the ground. The most famous example is a group called Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save Narmada Campaign) that opposed the building of a dam on Narmada River in Central India.
- Interested public
Generally nonexistent, they sometimes appear in good numbers if the project is large and is gaining media attention. They are passive observers of the process, unless the situation is extreme and warrants their active participation.
In an ideal world, all of the stakeholders together work in the EIA study and come up with the most suitable plan to ensure the project is successful and the environment is minimally affected. But as I mentioned in Environmental Impact Assessment-Challenges, all of the stakeholders don’t have an equal say in the process. Project proponents are the ones with the most to lose if a project is rejected, and they use their deep pockets to try and wrestle out a favorable decision wherever possible. On the other end, the affected people and social groups, despite large numbers are ignored in the name of “economic development” and are dealt with with short term promises.
Only if every stakeholder gets an equal say can EIA be really successful, and ensure we head in the right direction as a society.