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Environmental impact assessment case studies

Discover EIA case studies: Kidston Pumped Storage Hydro Project (Australia) and BR-319 Highway (Brazil), showcasing their impacts and results.
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EIA Case Studies

Across the world, there are multiple examples of EIA reports – known as Environmental Impact Statements (EIS). An EIA provides documentary evidence for the identified impacts of the proposed project. They offer enough information for the decision maker to decide whether or not to approve, approve with conditions, or reject. The best way to understand what an EIS looks like is to read one. Below are two examples of an EIA process that you can consider.

Kidston Pumped Storage Hydro Project – Australia

A dam in Queensland with one open gate A dam in Queensland that supplies hydroelectric power.

This project was a proposal by the proponent Genex Power Limited to reuse the waters from the now-closed Kidston Gold Mine in Kidston, Queensland, Australia. The Kidston Pumped Storage Hydro Project aims to generate 250 megawatts of energy by using water releases. They plan to construct a solar farm to support the project. The project would cost $330 million, take 2. 5 years to build and generate 370 jobs during construction and another 9 for ongoing operations.

The Impact Assessment report for this project found the following impacts:

  1. It impacts surface water quality
  2. Significant impacts on macroinvertebrates
  3. There is a potential impact on a spring called Middle Spring, requiring further assessment
  4. Sedimentary impacts
  5. Potential contamination impacts in the wet season. Rainfall impacts showed manganese, iron, nitrogen and phosphorus levels above appropriate levels both upstream and downstream of the proposed release point.

Impacts were considered (i) during construction and (ii) during operational phases. A series of mitigation and remediation techniques were suggested to offset the scale of the risks/impacts. The EIA in this case was largely desktop (though still 786 pages!), and concluded that both operational and temporary construction releases would likely result in relatively low impacts in the receiving environment. The project was approved. If you would like to read about the project in more detail, you can access it here [1].

The BR-319 Highway Brazil

Drone aerial view of lumber sawmill full of logs in BR 319 road, Amazon rainforest, Brazil. Drone aerial view of lumber sawmill along the BR 319 highway in Brazil.

Brazil is the world’s 5th largest country. In 1989 they introduced legislation to protect the environment, which means EIAs must be conducted for various projects, especially where they impact the Amazon Basin, which accounts for about 40% of all the world’s rainforests and 40% of all extant species worldwide. The BR-319 is one such project: an 870 km long road that connects two towns, Manau and Porto Velho, but is likely to have a huge impact. Studies show that 87% of deforestation in the Amazon occurs within 25km of a highway like this one.

The highway was originally built in the 1970s. The proposal was to reconstruct and pave the highway. The EIA showed that this would lead to the deforestation of up to 39 million hectares of forest and CO2 emissions exceeding 47 billion tons by 2050. Furthermore, the reconstruction of the highway also led to the opening up of a new frontier of the forest, which was untouched by development. Arguments for the project include the facilitation of industrial activity and increased employment. The negative impacts included loss of biodiversity, habitat fragmentation, carbon emissions and socio-cultural impacts on the local Indigenous peoples. Despite the EIA and an understanding of the significant impacts, roads and other projects like this continue to be approved and implemented with little conditions, as the political landscape and economic needs of the country are prioritised. 

If you would like to read further about EIAs in practice in Brazil you can access the following article: Environmental impact assessment in Brazilian Amazonia: Challenges and prospects to assess biodiversity [2]. The article provides great insight into how EIAs work and don’t work and why it is so important to do them properly.

References

1. Wallis T, Fraser R. Kidston Pumped Storage Hydro Project Impact Assessment Report [Internet]. 2019 [cited 2023 May 9]. Available from: {https://eisdocs.dsdip.qld.gov.au/Kidston%20Pumped%20Storage%20Hydro%20Project/Impact%20assessment%20report/kidston-pumped-storage-hydro-project-iar-full.pdf}(https://eisdocs.dsdip.qld.gov.au/Kidston%20Pumped%20Storage%20Hydro%20Project/Impact%20assessment%20report/kidston-pumped-storage-hydro-project-iar-full.pdf)

2. Ritter, C.D., McCrate, G., Nilsson, R.H., Fearnside, P.M., Palme, U. and Antonelli, A. (2017). Environmental impact assessment in Brazilian Amazonia: Challenges and prospects to assess biodiversity. Biological Conservation, 206, pp.161–<168.https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2016.12.031>

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Environmental Impact Assessment

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