Scoping is the procedure in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process that establishes the key issues to be addressed in the compilation of the Environmental Statement (ES) and the framework of approach that has to be taken. Scoping is used to identify significant impacts, key issues, alternatives to a proposal, and the affected and interested population groups. Scoping results in the formulation of Terms of Reference (TOR), or guidelines for the preparation of the ES, which further help to focus the study on the more significant issues.
The scoping process is outlined below:
• Assessment of all predictable and/or expected environmental impacts by MEPA based on, but not limited to, the information presented in the Project Description Statement (PDS);
• Relevant government departments, local councils and NGOs are invited to provide information, within 21 days of notification, on what they wish to see included in the TOR;
• The general public is invited, through an advert in the local press and the Government Gazette to inform the Director of Environment Protection, within 21 days of the publication of the advert, of the issues they wish to be included in the TOR;
• For developments of major significance, MEPA may organize a public meeting or scoping meetings before setting the TOR;
• MEPA formulates the final TOR;
• The final TOR are forwarded to the applicant and the architect/consultants;
• The final TOR are fully accessible to the public on the MEPA website.
Terms of Reference (TOR) are prepared for each development that requires an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). The TOR focus on the significant potential impacts likely to arise from a particular development project. They ensure that, as much as possible, the impact assessment focuses on relevant issues.
TOR are not cast in stone: they should be considered as project-specific guidelines. Should consultants deem that certain issues are irrelevant to the development then they can be omitted so long as this is justified. Similarly should the TOR have overlooked important issues then these should still be included in the EIA. In this report, it is advisable that the consultants keep close contact with MEPA.
The TOR usually require:
- Description of the proposed development;
- Description of the proposed site;
Alternatives to the proposed development (including alternative sites and technologies);
Policy & legislative framework applicable to the development proposal;
Assessment of environmental impacts and risks of the proposed development;
Design of mitigation measures;
Design of monitoring programmes.