Proper implementation of the EIA process is mandatory if a country wants development to be sustainable. EIA is yet to prove as a successful decision support tool to help in environmental protection especially in case of Pakistan because of numerous underlying factors that affect the EIA process at many stages. In the following review paper efforts have been made to evaluate the current status of EIA in Pakistan and to understand what takes place at each step of the EIA process and what are the factors affecting them. Unless and until the factors adversely affecting the EIA process in Pakistan are not addressed properly, EIA will remain ineffective in playing its important role in environmental protection.
High quality EIA report or Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) is one component of an effective translation of EIA policy into practice. To facilitate all the concerned agencies and proponents, the Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (Pak-EPA) formulated guidelines for preparation and review of environmental reports in 1997. After the report is ready, the next step is to review it. PEPA (Review Of IEE and EIA) Regulations, 2000 provides guidelines for this respect .Public participation is mandatory during this step of EIA but is generally weak. Since it is mandatory only during EIA review by the responsible authority hence, avoided by most of the proponents during the EIA preparation process. Even during the review, public participation is insufficient and affectees concerns are rarely addressed. Moreover, it is not mandatory for responsible authority to follow those criteria while reviewing an EIA report.
There is no formal system of EIA review panels comprising experts from various fields as EPA’s do not have financial resources to support that system by paying honoraria or fee to the reviewers and to spend on cost of communication hence review is made by the concerned officials of responsible authority without any involvement of independent experts and NGOs. The problem is exacerbated in the wake of lack of skilled EIA professionals within the responsible authorities, which the proponents also know and try to exploit this in their favor. EIA review criteria suggested in the Guidelines is ‘content’ oriented and does not explain any measures of quality of each component of EIA. . Increased public discussion and participation is one of the major astonishing characteristic and strength of EIA in many countries, however, NGOs often regarded the public hearing as a staged process that appeared to be open to the citizens when the decision had already been made according to Consultancy within Engineering, Environmental Science & Economics.
In a nutshell, the overall quality of EIA reports in Pakistan is not satisfactory. EIA consultants and approval authorities lack experience; along with this the proponents are not willing to allocate sufficient resources. In addition to that, there is no code of conduct for EIA consultants; not even any requirement of registration. In many cases, a consultant’s role has been limited to highlight the economic beneﬁts and justify the project for getting environmental approval. Reviewing of EIA reports is generally process and sub-stance oriented except some comments on the quality of impact assessment by the EIA experts in review committees. This third party involvement in the review can be marked as a salient feature of the EIA process in Pakistan. Although, an independent EIA review commission does not exist, more resources are expected to be allocated by the government to transform third party involvement in to formal review bodies.