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Why Environment Impact Assessment is must for all projects.


The Global Environment Outlook (GEO) integrated environmental assessment (IEA) and reporting processes are led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). UNEP derives its mandate from the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 2997 of 1972, which led to the establishment of the organization. The resolution states in part that UNEP should keep the global environment under review. The UN Conference on the Human Environment whose recommendations led to Resolution 2997 highlighted the importance of environmental assessment and reporting.

Form the above every common man would understand that EIA /IEA is a very important matter. However the Corporate & political class using the same very common man and his “development” needs willingly sideline this every-time everywhere around the World. In this article I will use India and one of its major states – Maharashtra & its capital City Mumbai as an example.

In India states like Maharashtra would like to “fast track” 14 projects which have been languishing for a long time. Why this sudden announcement from none other than the Chief Minister of the state? Simple, its election time and the money bags on whose donations the political parties thrive are not to pleased that their corporate greed has been restrained by such a mundane law like Environment Impact Assessment.

If this is done with the narrow political vision the leaders at present have, it would lead to disastrous consequences for the State and contribute to the Global Warming accelerating the process even further. Here is how.

By mid-century, the scientists say, in some parts of the World; that heat waves could by 5°C hotter. By the end of this century that could be 9°C hotter than they are today. Moreover, it’s no surprise that cities get a lot hotter than rural areas. Metro areas have more roads and taller buildings than the countryside, the better to collect sunlight by day and prevent the release of warmth by night. These distinguishing elements can cause city temperatures to reach greater relative heights — a phenomenon known as the urban “heat island” effect.

The Politicians & the Corporates live and have their HQ is Metro Cities!

Just recently, Australia celebrated a huge achievement, with the passage of the Clean Energy Future legislation that finally puts a price on pollution and gets the Country ready for historical investments in clean, renewable energy, energy efficiency and protection of landscape carbon. Their leaders say that it’s a vote for a new beginning in their campaign for serious climate action, not the end.

Just why did Australia do what it did ? To understand this one must understand the Drivers of Global Warming.

Drivers (including demographic changes, economic and societal processes) lead to more specific pressures on the environment (including land use change, resource extraction, emissions of pollutants and waste, and modification and movement of organisms). These pressures lead to changes of the state of the environment, which are in addition to those that result from natural processes. The environmental changes include climate change, stratospheric ozone depletion, changes in biodiversity and pollution or degradation of air water and soils. These changes lead to changes of the services that the environment provides to humankind, such as the provision of clean air and water, food and protection from ultra-violet radiation. As a result of changes in services and mediated by demographic, social and material factors, there are impacts on human well-being (health, material assets, good social relations and security).

Australia being one of the leading polluters and cause of global warming and suffering the consequences of the Ozone hole have had to respond. These responses include both formal and informal attempts to either adapt to the changes in environmental services or to reduce the pressures on the environment.

India’s global warming foot-print is extremely small compared to the developed Nations and this is why it must become more responsible now and prepare by driving the energy revolution and the opportunity to move to 100% renewable energy, plan in the national interest, make the right investment decisions now and put the right management policies in place. The state of Maharashtra and its leadership should show the way how to address  food, water, energy and climate crises – namely, food security. We need to maximise food production and export by lifting agricultural productivity in the face of escalating climate change and oil depletion. Competition for land and water between agriculture, coal seam gas, carbon storage, urbanisation and land grabs must be resolved.

The Development laws should be designed in such a way that they can guide decisions on land use and encourage decisions that will benefit the climate, our biodiversity and our farmers, indigenous communities and other land managers. It is only then all business can be sustained.

Therefore its imperative that EIA should not be treated as an impediment to growth but a valuable tool to assess the long-term sustainability of the project and thereby its profit for the Corporate and Society at large.

 

 

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Technical Manual for Sustainable Site Documentation.


SUSTAINABLE SITE DESIGN:

The purpose of sustainable site planning is to integrate design and construction strategies by modifying both site and building to achieve greater human comfort and operational efficiencies. It charts appropriate patterns of use for a site while incorporating construction methods that minimize site disruption and the expenditure of financial and building resources. The process is based upon the premise that any landscape setting can be analyzed and studied as a series of interconnected geological, hydrological, topographic, ecological, climatological, and cultural features and systems. Selecting a building site begins the process of calculating the degree of resource use and the degree of disturbance of existing natural systems that will be required to support a building’s development.

SITE ANALYSIS AND ASSESSMENT:

Site assessment is a process that examines the data gathered and identified in the site analysis, assigns specific site factors to hierarchies of importance, and identifies, where possible, interactive relationships.

Data collection:

Technical site data –

Geographical latitude (solar altitude) and microclimate factors, such as wind loads

Affect building layout, including solar orientation and location of entrances, windows.

Topography and adjacent landforms—Influence building proportions, wind loads, drainage strategies, floor elevations, and key gravity-fed sewer-line corridors.

Groundwater and surface runoff characteristics— determine building locations as well as natural channels for diverting storm runoff and locations of runoff detention ponds

Solar access—Determines position of building to take maximum advantage of natural solar resources for passive solar heating, day lighting, and photo voltaic.

Ai r-movement patterns, both annual and diurnal— particularly influence sitting of multiple structures to avoid damming cold moisture-laden air, or blocking favorable cooling breezes during periods of overheating. Properly measured wind loads and pressure differentials are essential for designing interior air-handling systems or use of passive solar cooling strategies.

Soil texture and its load-bearing capacity—Determine building location on the site and the type of footing required. Identify site-grading processes by the soil’s potential for erosion by wind, water, and machine disturbance.

Parcel shape and access—Affect a site’s capacity to accommodate a proposed development, even if its size and environmental\ factors are favorable. Potential access points should not burden lower-density or less compatible adjacent land use. Zoning setbacks and easements can also affect development potential.

 Neighboring developments and proposed future developments—Affect proposed project and may lead to requisite design changes.

Analyze specific characteristics of climate zones: Climate has specific characteristics requiring mitigation, augmentation, and exploitation; there are 5 climatic zones in India.

Analyze the site’s existing air quality: Most state require an environmental impact assessment (EIA) outlining the potential negative impacts of a proposed development and how they might be alleviated. Site planning requires two kinds of air-quality analysis regarding: (1) assessment of the existing air quality of the site to determine the presence of noxious chemicals and suspended particulates, and (2) projection of the negative consequences (if any) of the proposed development on existing air quality. In primarily commercial or industrial areas, poor air quality should be a key factor in determining site suitability and use, especially for such facilities as schools, parks, or housing for seniors. Testing should anticipate seasonal or diurnal wind patterns to make certain that the worst possible case is tested.

Perform soil and groundwater testing: Perform soil tests to identify the presence of chemical residues from past agricultural activities (arsenic, pesticides, and lead); past industrial activities (dumps, heavy metals, carcinogenic compounds and minerals, and hydrocarbons); and any other possible contamination either on or in the vicinity of the subject site.

Test soil suitability for backfills, slope structures, infiltration: The native soil should be tested to determine bearing, compactability, and infiltration rates, and, in turn, structural suitability and the best method for mechanical compaction (i.e., clay soils require non-vibrating compaction and non-erosive angles of repose for cut-and-fill slopes).

Evaluate site ecosystem for existence of wetlands and endangered species: Preservation and restoration strategies require thorough economic analysis, specialized expertise, and sound baseline data gathered through both remote and on-site sensing methods.

Examine existing vegetation to inventory significant plant populations: This will enable the developer or owner to later specify vegetation that is susceptible to damage during construction, so that protective measures can be developed and implemented.

Map all natural hazard potentials (such as winds, floods, and mudslides):Eberhard Bosslet - Since 1983 - works with rui... Historic flood data, wind-damage data, and subsidence data should be mapped along with current annual wind and precipitation data.

Diagram existing pedestrian and vehicular movement and parking to identify Patterns: Existing traffic and parking patterns in areas which are adjacent to or near the site may need consideration in relation to proposed building design and site circulation patterns.

Review the potential of utilizing existing local transportation resources: Explore the sharing of existing transportation facilities and other resources, such as parking and shuttles, with existing institutions. This can lead to greater site efficiencies.

Identify construction restraints and requirements: Special construction methods may be required because of local soil condition, geology, earth-moving constraints, and other site-specific factors and constraints.

Infrastructural data

Analyze site for existing utility and transportation infrastructure and capacity: Existing infrastructure should be analyzed for integration into the building and facilities.

Historical Data

Review architectural style of the area for incorporation into building: If desirable, the architectural style that is historically predominant in an area can be reflected in the building and landscape design, enhancing community integration.

DATA ASSESSMENT  Illustration of a level spreader installation ...

Identify topographic and hydrological impacts of proposed design and building use: Measure cut-and-fill potential and assess potential for erosion, siltation, and groundwater pollution.

Develop general area takeoff and overall building footprint compatibility with site: For example, measure total site coverage of impermeable surfaces to determine thresholds of run-off pollution potential (i.e., over 20 percent impermeable coverage of gross site requires mitigation to clean storm water before it enters drainage system off-site). Footprint should also maximize site efficiencies with regard to required road, utility, and service access.

Identify alternative site design concepts to minimize resource costs and disruption: Develop several alternatives to explore optimal pattern with regard to factors such as grading and tree-clearing consequences and resulting infrastructure costs.

Review financial implications of site development, building, and projected maintenance costs: Total cost of the project must factor in ongoing costs associated with the site design, development, and operations, as well as hidden embodied energy costs associated with specific materials.

DeveloUS Air Quality Index Map-1/23/2009p matrix of use and site compatibility index: Each site may be assessed to reveal its development compatibility index with regard to a specific type of development. This index may reveal a pattern of incompatibilities thereby specific appropriate mitigation measures are undertaken.

Courtesy: Nicholas T. Dines, author.

 

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MoEF: Environment Impact Assessment (EIA)


Union minister for environment and forests Jairam Ramesh recently announced that real estate developers will no longer have to get the mandatory Environment Impact Assessment (EIA)  study for residential and commercial complexes if their constructions adhere to green norms as prescribed by international agencies.

It could be one of the best news for the EEB {Energy Efficient Buildings} as I prefer to call them; primarily because the word “green” has a lot of scope for information asymmetry.

However, there is need for caution and one must have an in-depth knowledge of all that goes into an EIA. Any EEB rating in the world works primarily on a matrix which concentrates on the Building design & product features which would make the building an Efficient Building in terms of water and electrical energy it saves. Some attention is given towards the site sustainability but herein lies the challenge. I do not think it addresses all the Environmental goal as would be stipulated under an EIA act, and this must be taken into consideration.

Benchmarking here would become very important. What is the building typology, what are the sensitivity to the site conditions etc.
EEB rating should become a part of the processes of an EIA so that it reduces the time it takes, especially in India to get the Environmental nod. Through benchmarking  an EEB  Assessment tool can compare buildings within certain geographical area and see if they match to the stipulated norms and reduce the time it takes to get the Environmental nod.

I have as a stake holder in GRIHA forwarded it to the ADaRSH team and would want this to come out as a notification at the earliest.We must wait and see what is the final outcome of this press release.

 

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