Is “consideration of alternatives” in project level environmental impact assessment studies in developing countries an eyewash: an Indian case-study
Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 2022, vol. 65, issue 3, 418-440
Consideration of alternatives for a development project, with the prime objective of selecting the most appropriate alternative that supports sustainability of the environmental resources, should be the heart of an EIA study. This study was undertaken to examine how alternatives were addressed in 46 EIA reports for infrastructural projects accorded environmental clearance in India, adopting the yardsticks used by Sadler for evaluating effectiveness and criteria-based evaluation. The EIA process considers alternatives superficially and the terms of reference lack emphasis on a wide range of reasonable alternatives, even for potentially controversial and large projects. Radical improvements are needed in the EIA process through a core legislated scoping, and transparent and rigorous appraisal of proposals right from “upstream” through “downstream” of project life-cycle. The capacity building of professionals associated with the EIA process on the structured methodologies for identification, development, and analysis of reasonable alternatives should help meet the EIA objectives.
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