Authored by Sadia Hassan Sherani
Initial environmental examination (IEE) is a preliminary environmental review of reasonably foreseeable impacts of the proposed activity to determine the adverse impacts of whether an EIA is required for the project or not. It is usually done for small scale projects or projects with no significant adverse impacts and Environmental impact assessment (EIA) is an important policy tool that is used for evaluating the impacts of development or any proposed project; including physical, social or/and environmental impacts. It is usually done for large scale projects or projects that cause adverse environmental impacts. It is one of the substantial processes that contribute in the promotion of sustainable development. EIA process not only takes account of the environmental impacts but also the economic, social, cultural and human health-related impacts.
The main aim of EIA is ensuring environmental sustainability by minimizing/reducing the adverse impacts of any developmental project. It goes through different steps that include screening, scoping, impact analysis etc. Moreover, public involvement in EIA process plays a key role and to make the EIA process better and transparent this important step must be taken. The developmental activities or plans in which we don’t consider the environment will always create some negative impacts which can result in harmful consequences for human welfare, human health, and ecosystems.
The concept of environmental assessment has been introduced in Pakistan many years ago. The federal government of Pakistan established an ordinance called Pakistan Environmental Protection Ordinance (PEPO) for the protection of the environment in 1983. It was the first time in which the concept of Initial Environmental Examination (IEE) and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) were introduced in the country. PEPO was later on replaced by Pakistan Environmental Protection Act (PEPA) in 1997 and the EIA process was further explained in detail in this act. In the year 2010, major changes have occurred due to 18th amendment in the 1973 constitution of Islamic republic of Pakistan. After this amendment, the environment became a provincial subject, empowering all the provinces of Pakistan to make separate environmental laws of their own. Furthermore, regulations 2000 provided proper schedules for conducting IEE and EIA which distinguish which project requires IEE and which project requires EIA. Project that requires IEE falling in schedule I and project that requires EIA falling in schedule II.
Balochistan is located in the south-western part of Pakistan and has total population of 12.34 million according to 2017 census. It has total land area of 347,190 km2 and it covers 44% of Pakistan’s total land which makes it Pakistan’s largest province in terms of area. Balochistan made its own Environmental Protection Act in 2012 known as BEPA. According to the section number 15(1) of BEPA 2012, it is mandatory to submit an IEE or EIA report before starting any mega project or project that has potential to cause adverse environmental effects and proponent of a project cannot start any developmental project without doing its EIA. The section number 25(1) of this act states that in case of violation of IEE and EIA requirements, a penalty of 1 million can be charged from the culprit and an additional fine of 1 hundred thousand rupees per day can also be charged in case of continual violation/contravention.
As EIA process not only focuses on environmental impacts but also focuses on social, cultural and economic impacts, so its systematic implementation in Balochistan can provide several benefits like improved designs or location of a project, better environmental planning and design of a proposal, well-designed projects and minimum risks on humans and environment, reduction in the costs by selection of best and improved technology, ensuring the compliance with environmental standards, raised environmental awareness in public by involvement of both interested and affected parties in the EIA process.
Although our provincial and federal laws strictly prescribe the implementation of EIA process but still there is a lack of enforcement. A lot of developmental activities in Balochistan still conducted without the proper implementation of EIA process. One of the main reasons of this is lack of effective institutional setup in the province which has given rise to an imbalance for conducting environmental impact assessment. This issue should be taken seriously and proper implementation of IEE/EIA in Balochistan should be ensured. In this regard, Government of Balochistan must take some strict steps to for the conduction of IEE and EIA processes prior to developmental projects. If these steps of environmental assessment would be carried out firmly, then they can lead Balochistan towards prevention of social, economic and environmental problems which will precede the province towards the viable environment, bearable society, and equitable economy; which are the three basic tiers of sustainable development.
The writer is a student of BS Environmental Sciences.