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What is an Environmental Assessment?

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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 01 December 2016
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    Conjecture Corporation
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An environmental assessment, also known as an environmental impact assessment, is a measure used to determine the impact of certain proposed actions. This measure may consider not only the natural environment, but also social and economic environments. Doing an environmental impact assessment can help prevent situations where substantial environmental damage is done and situations where a person’s actions have adverse effects. It can also be used to reveal the positive effects of a proposed plan.

Whether or not an environmental assessment should be performed and how it is done may not be left to choice. Many governments require that this measure be taken before certain plans are allowed to proceed. For example, in the European Union (EU) such measures are dictated by the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive. This legislation outlines which projects require an impact assessment, the procedure that should be followed in performing those assessments, and the content that should be included in the final drafts.

Authorization may be based on the findings revealed in the assessment. Public sentiment may also be taken into consideration. Since environmental damage, or even the risk of damage, is likely to affect other people, they are often given a platform to express their views.

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Negative effects or the potential of negative effects revealed by an environmental assessment do not always result in a project being denied. In some cases, people may be permitted to proceed but ordered to alter certain tactics. In other cases, they may be required to take certain preventive measures to limit potential damage as much as possible and develop plans for rectifying the damage caused.

An environmental assessment is not always used to reveal negative. In some cases, people may use an environmental assessment to show the positive impact their projects will have. This can often help encourage authorization. It may also encourage financial support, such as loans from the World Bank, which may otherwise be denied.

In many cases, an environmental assessment will include some positive results and some negative results. If a plan to build a factory is taken as an example, it becomes obvious how this is possible. A factory in an area may have positive economic effects by creating jobs and tax revenues. It may, however, produce negative effects such as diminished air quality and congested highways. An environmental impact assessment can allow all factors to be weighed and worked through.

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