Krishna Murari Agrawal
Track N | Energy Management Around the Globe
Enviro-Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) is a process that determines the environmental and social impacts and risks of a any developmental project in its area of influence. It is the most useful tool for understanding and managing the enviro-social impacts of a project. It also facilitates in identifying the critical social and environmental issues associated with a project, and ensure that positive impacts are optimized and negative impacts are minimized and mitigated.
High voltage transmission system usually exerts wide array of environmental and social impacts viz., displacement of local people affecting their livelihood, electro-magnetic radiation leading to serious health complications, migration of avi fauna as well as change in agricultural yield besides posing various other health and safety risks depending on existing landuse pattern of the project area. The present study wasundertaken for proposed high voltage transmission system (765/400 kV) in an Indian sub-continent with the prime objectives to assess the existing enviro-social setting of project area and evaluatethe potential significant environment & social impacts and hazards which would facilitate to formulate measures to mitigate/minimise potential environmental & social impacts.
There are various National as well as International policies and guidelines for managing enviro-social impact of setting up and operation of high voltage transmission system. The prime national environmental regulation which may be applicable includes the Environmental (Protection) Act, 1986; the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980; the Wildlife (Conservation) Act, 1972; the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885; the Indian Electricity Act, 1910; the Indian Electricity Rules, 1956, etc. International Finance Corporation (IFC)’s Sustainability Framework, 2006 and Equator Principles, June 2006 recognizes the need to support restoration of livelihoods of adversely affected people and lays down norms for rehabilitating the affected people and broadly outlines an approach and institutional framework to achieve its objectives. The Relevant IFC policies & guidelinesinclude Operational Policies (OP) 4.01 Environmental Assessment, OP 4.04 Natural Habitats, World Bank Operational Directive (OD) 4.20 Indigenous Peoples, World Bank OD 4.30 Involuntary Resettlement, World Bank Operational Policy Note (OPN) 11.03 Cultural Property, International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) Performance Standards on Social & Environmental Sustainability.The Equator Principles Financial Institutions (EPFIs) have adopted a set of principles in order to ensure that the projects they finance are developed in a manner that is socially responsible and reflect sound environmental management practices.
The present study has been conducted based on the detailed field study for collection of existing enviro-social setting in the project corridor (630 km long) falling under Maharashtra State of India. A corridor of 1 km either side of the proposed transmission line was considered as the primary study area of the project (core zone). However, the biological environment and sensitivity of the site were studied for a stretch of 2 km in either side of the Transmission Line (buffer zone). The baseline status of air quality, noise level, water quality, soil quality along with status of flora and fauna as well as demographic and socio-economic profile of the selected villages have been assessed through in-situ monitoring using the state-of-art sampling and analytical techniquesrecommended by the regulatory agencies. For individual socio-economic profile, a structured questionnaire was used along the stretch of proposed transmission line. For the public consultation along with preparation of village profile and need assessment of all the affected villages, a structured questionnaire had been developed and the same has been administered to core as well as buffer zone villages to identify the social issues as well as the suggestions of local people including Sarpanch/ Upsarpanch/Gram Panchayet members of concerned villages.
The social and environmental impacts have been identified through field surveys, onsite monitoring and consultation with the communities along the project authorities. Potential impacts of proposed transmission line during construction phase for casting of foundation, tower erection and stringing activities will be mainly disturbance to fauna and flora, traffic hazards, noise safety issues and waste disposal. Socio-economic issues will be due to restricted use of land and loss of crop. Whereas, operation phase involves disturbance to vegetation and noise etc. the social impacts will be from movement along the corridor, expectation management, and perception about generation of electromagnetic fields.
The pollution expected from construction activities includes fugitive dust emission due to excavation and project related vehicular movement and waste debris from casting of foundations. There is potential for disturbance to habitations in proximity of the towers due to construction related activities. Implementation of suggested measures will enable suppression of dust generation, disposal of waste debris and other adverse impacts. During operation there will be generation of electromagnetic field and some noise may generate due to transmission of power. Mitigation to counter potential adverse impacts have been presented in the Enviro-Social Management Plan (ESMP).
The ESMP provides a delivery mechanism to address potential adverse impacts, to instruct contractors and to introduce standards of good practice to be adopted for project activities taken up during construction and operation phases of the project. Inspection and monitoring of the environmental and social components will increase the effectiveness of suggested mitigations. It is warranted to execute all construction and operation related activities for the transmission line as per the best established environmental health and safety (EHS) standards. It is also recommended to effectively consider likely potential impacts during the selection of route, which includes avoiding densely populated area, thick vegetations, compensation for land acquisition etc. Mitigation measures should besuggested for impacts which could not be avoided through selection of alternate route. Some residual impact may however persist after the all mitigation measures are employed. The present study reveals the typical model for assessing the potential enviro-social impact and effective management plan of high voltage transmission system based on a case study undertaken in an Indian sub-continent.
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