The process of EIA in Nepal- Development or a disappointment?

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a planning tool which enables decision makers to accept environmentally friendly projects and reject environmentally damaging projects or their certain components.This process has been mandatory for development projects in Nepal, since the enactment of Environment Protection Act in 1997. The steps undertaken in the EIA in Nepal are:

  • Screening: Analyzing and deciding if the EIA is required.
  • Scoping: Considering what aspects needs to be covered in the development project
  • Preparing a report: The report needs to be prepared and must include environmental effects of the project.
  • Making an application and consultation: The report of the EIA must be publicized and submitted to government agencies, so that the viability of the project can be assessed.
  • Decision making: The government agencies then assess the report of EIA to determine if the project can be implemented or not.
  • Post decision: After the decision of implementing the project, the project needs to be continuously monitored. 

The initiative was brought so that environment protection can go hand in hand with development projects, making the development in the country more sustainable. The previous act for the EIA was also replaced where, Environment Protection Act (2019) and Environment Protection Rules (2020) now define the types of projects that need to carry out environmental assessments, which made the EIA process more detailed. However, analyzing some of the news articles, it seems the EIA has not been successfully implemented in development projects of the country. In the case of government sponsored projects, EIA has remained as ‘pro forma’ compliance with government’s legal requirements.

Most of the EIA projects have been a failure when it comes to government sponsored projects. EIA is done very late in a project cycle after many crucial decisions on design and locations have already been made despite the legislation mandating the process to be conducted before the project begins.  

One such case of EIA not being properly implemented is of Nijgadh airport project where it was found that the EIA report of the project was a copied content from a similar document prepared for a hydropower project. Currently, the Nijgadh project has been given a green light, but the project has created a huge debate about environmental protection and infrastructure development. Similarly, in the case of Pokhara International Airport, the EIA report mentioned only 28 species of birds. However, conservationists have counted more than 470 species in the Pokhara Valley. Despite the inconsistency found in the EIA report, the project started and the  airport is expected to open at the end of the year. Likewise, in the case of Prithvi Highway on  February 8, 2022, where  Malabar silk-cotton tree (commonly known as simal in Nepal) that was along the Prithvi Highway was cut down. On the tree was a nest of a griffon vulture, an endangered species. Pokhara bird society had asked the Department of Roads to not cut down the trees as the species, out of the nine types of vultures found in the country, the griffon vulture is the most endangered. But, despite the plea of the organization, the tree was cut for the development projects causing a huge outcry against the project. These are some notable cases which have shown that despite the EIA process, the development projects have failed to protect the environment. 

Despite being a government initiated regulation, it is evident from the cases above that the government itself does not follow the EIA requirement diligently. Even when concerns were raised by different stakeholders, the government did not seem to care.  Looking at the examples one might even ask if EIA is taken seriously by the government. Also, what would be the case if it was some other entity beside the government? 

To ensure the effective and efficient implementation, the government needs to look for alternatives to ensure a  proper EIA process. Proper check and balance, continuous monitoring and evaluation is a prerequisite for the success of the EIA. The government should be transparent regarding their EIA and should be held accountable if it is found that the government itself shys away from the regulation. In a country that adheres to the principle of rule of law the government should also adhere to it. 

                  The process of EIA in Nepal- Development or a disappointment?

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a planning tool which enables decision makers to accept environmentally friendly projects and reject environmentally damaging projects or their certain components.This process has been mandatory for development projects in Nepal, since the enactment of Environment Protection Act in 1997. The steps undertaken in the EIA in Nepal are:

  • Screening: Analyzing and deciding if the EIA is required.
  • Scoping: Considering what aspects needs to be covered in the development project
  • Preparing a report: The report needs to be prepared and must include environmental effects of the project.
  • Making an application and consultation: The report of the EIA must be publicized and submitted to government agencies, so that the viability of the project can be assessed.
  • Decision making: The government agencies then assess the report of EIA to determine if the project can be implemented or not.
  • Post decision: After the decision of implementing the project, the project needs to be continuously monitored. 

The initiative was brought so that environment protection can go hand in hand with development projects, making the development in the country more sustainable. The previous act for the EIA was also replaced where, Environment Protection Act (2019) and Environment Protection Rules (2020) now define the types of projects that need to carry out environmental assessments, which made the EIA process more detailed. However, analyzing some of the news articles, it seems the EIA has not been successfully implemented in development projects of the country. In the case of government sponsored projects, EIA has remained as ‘pro forma’ compliance with government’s legal requirements.

Most of the EIA projects have been a failure when it comes to government sponsored projects. EIA is done very late in a project cycle after many crucial decisions on design and locations have already been made despite the legislation mandating the process to be conducted before the project begins.  

One such case of EIA not being properly implemented is of Nijgadh airport project where it was found that the EIA report of the project was a copied content from a similar document prepared for a hydropower project. Currently, the Nijgadh project has been given a green light, but the project has created a huge debate about environmental protection and infrastructure development. Similarly, in the case of Pokhara International Airport, the EIA report mentioned only 28 species of birds. However, conservationists have counted more than 470 species in the Pokhara Valley. Despite the inconsistency found in the EIA report, the project started and the  airport is expected to open at the end of the year. Likewise, in the case of Prithvi Highway on  February 8, 2022, where  Malabar silk-cotton tree (commonly known as simal in Nepal) that was along the Prithvi Highway was cut down. On the tree was a nest of a griffon vulture, an endangered species. Pokhara bird society had asked the Department of Roads to not cut down the trees as the species, out of the nine types of vultures found in the country, the griffon vulture is the most endangered. But, despite the plea of the organization, the tree was cut for the development projects causing a huge outcry against the project. These are some notable cases which have shown that despite the EIA process, the development projects have failed to protect the environment. 

Despite being a government initiated regulation, it is evident from the cases above that the government itself does not follow the EIA requirement diligently. Even when concerns were raised by different stakeholders, the government did not seem to care.  Looking at the examples one might even ask if EIA is taken seriously by the government. Also, what would be the case if it was some other entity beside the government? 

To ensure the effective and efficient implementation, the government needs to look for alternatives to ensure a  proper EIA process. Proper check and balance, continuous monitoring and evaluation is a prerequisite for the success of the EIA. The government should be transparent regarding their EIA and should be held accountable if it is found that the government itself shys away from the regulation. In a country that adheres to the principle of rule of law the government should also adhere to it.