Latest News

Understanding the EIA and mitigation for reclamations

Understanding the EIA and mitigation for reclamations

Published by The Star • 28/05/2022

Nik Abdullah Muaz Nik Mohd Kamel of Dr Nik and Associates.

THE Penang South Reclamation’s (PSR) Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report is on public display until June 18.


The EIA report includes details on proposed mitigation measures and ecology offset programmes to minimise the impact of the reclamation. The measures include planting mangroves, deploying artificial reefs and fish aggregating devices, releasing fish and prawn fries, building eco-shorelines, setting aside funds for marine research, and others.


So far, the PSI project has, directly and indirectly, planted 3,200 mangrove trees through the Penang Infrastructure Corporation, project delivery partner SRS Consortium, and Pusat Perkhidmatan Setempat Nelayan since 2016. The project also aims to plant 22,300 mangrove trees on Island A over eight hectares of land set aside to create new habitats and nurseries for marine life.


Nik Abdullah Muaz Nik Mohd Kamel, the director of coastal and hydraulics at consultant engineering firm Dr Nik and Associates, explains what EIA reports and the Environmental Management Plan (EMP) are, and their importance in reclamation projects like PSR.


What is an EIA and its purpose?

It is a study that assesses the potential impacts of a development classified as a “prescribed activity” according to the Environmental Quality (Prescribed Activities) (EIA) Order 2015.


Any party carrying out prescribed activities that may cause significant environmental impact must present an EIA report to the Department of Environment (DOE).


The EIA’s purpose is to determine the potential environmental, social, and health effects of the proposed development; and from there, propose appropriate mitigation measures.


The EIA is also part of the process whereby decision-makers understand the DOE’s requirements for implementing the development and disseminating the information to the relevant stakeholders and the public.


This is to help the people understand the potential positive and adverse environmental impact that is likely to be caused by the project.


What kind of projects require EIA reports?

There are 21 project categories under the Environmental Quality (Prescribed Activities) (EIA) Order 2015.


Among them are dredging and land reclamation, agricultural activities exceeding 20ha, land-based aquaculture, chemical and petrochemical production activities, quarry activities, construction of power generation facilities and transport infrastructure, development of oil and gas fields, development of coastal and hill areas, development of new townships, and others.


What goes into preparing an EIA report?

The main stages in the EIA process are:


1. Project definition: Defines the statement of need, size, and nature of the project.


2. Screening: Decides if an EIA is needed.


3. Scoping: Decides what needs to be covered and reported in the EIA.


4. Preparing the EIA report: To conduct and report baseline studies, environmental impact predictions and propose mitigation measures.


5. Making an application and consultation: The EIA report and development application is publicised including through electronic advertisement, and interested parties and the public are allowed to give their views.


6. Decision making: The EIA report and comments on it are taken into account by the DOE and an expert panel to decide whether the development can be approved, and the decision notice must be publicised.


7. Post decision: The project owner or developer starts any monitoring required by the DOE

Therefore, the main content of the EIA report covers:

> The project’s compliance with relevant legal requirements and planning guidelines.

> The baseline conditions of a project site’s physical, biological and human environments, as well as environmentally sensitive areas (ESAs).

> The proposed methodology, project activities, and assessment of potential positive and adverse impacts.

> The proposed mitigation measures that will be implemented.


What is the EMP?

The EMP is a tool or living guidance document for measuring and achieving compliance with a project’s environmental protection and mitigation requirements as stipulated in the EIA report.


It is submitted and endorsed by the DOE before a project is allowed to begin any physical works on site.


How can EIA reports and the EMP help minimise environmental impact in developments?

The EIA report will identify and determine the surrounding environmentally-sensitive areas and the impacts of the development. To minimise the impacts, mitigation measures and monitoring programmes are recommended to ensure the proposed mitigation measures are implemented accordingly.


Impacts are sometimes inevitable, so good governance and control on-site during the implementation are required.


A balance between the environmental impacts and gain (from the development) as a whole is thoroughly assessed in the EIA report.


What mitigation measures are used to ensure minimal environmental impact in reclamation projects?

To minimise impact, adaptation and best management practices are required. The implementation team is required to understand and review the condition on-site from time to time to ensure the effectiveness of the mitigation measures undertaken at the project site.


Monitoring stations for air, water quality, noise, and others must be strategically placed within the project site and nearby ESAs to ensure all the readings comply with the standard limits. The project owner must stop work and take remedial measures if readings exceed the permissible levels.


Turbidity monitoring devices will monitor water quality to prevent dispersion of sedimentation and dredge materials. This online system will trigger and alert the monitoring team if turbidity hits non-permissible levels.


To keep turbidity under control and within the allowable level, we will also have perimeter bunds in place before the sand-filling process. Silt curtains will also be installed for the same purpose.


Another example is the installation of the Dredging and Disposal Management System (DDMS) to track the movement of dredge vessels from the dredging site to the project and disposal sites. This will prevent illegal dumping.


Why do NGOs and environmental activists remain critical of new developments, even after EIA reports are approved?

There are several reasons why they are often critical of new developments especially projects of this nature. They are of course concerned about environmental issues, which is a good thing.


They want to understand and want their concerns about the development to be addressed. Their concerns can be addressed through engagements to explain the project and mitigation measures. The DOE has a good set of guidelines for the EIA to safeguard the environment.


Some groups may object because they will be impacted by the development, and require attention and possibly a reasonable compensation. This must be addressed by the project proponent.

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

error: Content is protected !!