Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a systematic process that ensures that environmental, social and economic considerations are incorporated in sound and well-balanced decision making around specific projects. EIA is sometimes also referred to as Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) or Integrated Environmental Assessment (IEA)
The purpose of EIA is two-folded:
- in the short term EIA aims to inform the process of decision-making by identifying the potentially significant environmental, social and economic effects and risks of projects.
- in the long term, EIA aims to promote sustainable development by ensuring that development proposals do not undermine critical resource and ecological functions or the well being, lifestyle and livelihood of the communities and peoples who depend on them.
Most EIA processes have a common structure that involves the following steps:
figure (available as pdf) from United Nations University