Geographical Information System for Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)

The Environmental Protection Act was enacted in 1986 after the Bhopal gas tragedy which occurred in 1984.This tragedy killed about 10,000 people in first three days and subsequently 25,000 people in related injuries by 1994. This has necessitated the need for environmental impact assessment before setting up an infrastructure. We have witnessed many incidents in which human life and property could have been saved by using the geographical information system (GIS) in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process.

            Our environment is very fragile and sensitive to the anthropogenic pressure. Though, we know that certain activity will create an adverse impact on the environment, we keep harming our ecosystem. As we have done a lot of advancement on the techno front, but unable to apply it when it is required for the environmental conservation. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is an important policy initiative to conserve natural resources and the environment. Many human activities produce potential adverse environmental effects which include the construction and operation of highways, rail, roads, pipelines, airports, radioactive waste disposal, harbor construction, etc. Environmental impact statements are usually required to contain specific information on the magnitude and characteristics of environmental impact. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) can be carried out efficiently with the help of GIS, by integrating various GIS layers; assessment of natural features can be performed. The Geo-spatial tool provide the flexibility to integrate the multi-layer or multi data-set to assess the present condition of the environment and forecast the situation due to proposed development activity.

            The developmental and conservation activity can go together if planned using GIS technology. We must understand the need of the proposed activity and plan accordingly. We have witnessed major havoc like Kashmir flood (2014), Utterkhand Flash Flood (2013), Indian Ocean Tsunami (2004) etc.

            We observed a similarity in the above mentioned natural calamity which could be attributed to poor planning of development. We must assess the environmental condition before any developmental activity using the latest Geo-spatial technology. We could have run the inundation model and avoided the settlement or development in the low lying zone. We should also have avoided the human settlement close to the shoreline and would have followed the coastal regulation zone (CRZ) guidelines. We have standard guidelines which need to be followed along with the modelling capacity of GIS. Human life and property are very precious and therefore application of latest technology like GIS could safeguard the environment as well as human life.

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