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The Need and Use of Geographic Information Systems for Environmental Impact Assessment in Nepal

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The Need and Use of Geographic Information Systems for Environmental Impact Assessment in Nepal
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  HYDRO NEPAL ISSUE NO. 4 JANUARY, 2009 21 Abstract: Geographical applications in EIA studies is appropriate to build up and extend their knowledge and skills in using Ge ographic Information Systems (GIS) in Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA), and obtain practical experience in the application of GIS technologies and disciplines. This article highlights emerging topics related to the principles andpractice of EIA, including concepts, tools and methods, and related issues. GIS as a tool will be used to visually illustrate the implications of spatial decisions. GIS is applied in all EIA stages: from the acquisition, storage and display of thematicinformation relative to the vulnerability of the affected resources, to impact prediction and qualication, evaluation,and nally, presentation. This paper highlights how GIS applications using in EIA process in different countries and nd out possibility to incorporate those applications in EIA studies in Nepal. Key words: Environmental Impact Assessment, Geographical Information System, Nepal Introduction M any Developing countries have experienceduntold environmental degradation and ecologicaldeterioration in the past century, with little or no realsolution to alleviate many of these concerns. Poorly plannedhuman interference has been the major cause. Adequateinformation and appropriate technology are limiting factorsfor effective environmental management. Hence, effortsto improve, conserve and protect the environment willinclude not only the resolution of political policies but alsothe application of a state-of-the-art scientic approach toplanning and implementation. The process of EnvironmentalImpact Assessment (EIA) was developed as an effectiveplanning tool. The genuine conduct of this process will go along way in reducing environmental deterioration. Becauseof the dynamic characteristics and multivariate nature of theenvironment, it has often been difcult to collate, analyzeand interpret its data sets. This great complexity can beovercome, however, with the innovation and applicationof a system of computer tools such as the GeographicInformation System (GIS) and related technology. GIS alsooffers graphical presentation of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for easy analysis during the decision-making processes. Because GIS is procient in data collectionand collation, it has become an appropriate mechanism forcreating environmental information system database. Thisstorage facility makes environmental data easier to upgrade,update and retrieve as desired. The conclusion is that thetechnology is now available in Nepal equal to anywhere elsein the World. The issue comes from the need to ensure thatthis is properly applied within the regulatory and monitoringsystem. It strongly recommends the use of GIS for properEIA processes to help contribute to the resolution of themany environmental problems plaguing in Nepal.In Nepal, development projects are being proposed andexecuted on a daily basis, many of which involve large-scale vegetation cover removal and ecosystem damage. Many of these projects do not have genuine EIA studies carried outfor them. Nepal has extensive human and natural resources.The exploitation of these resources over the past few decadeshas left a wasteland of environmental problems. Because The Need and Use of Geographic Information Systemsfor Environmental Impact Assessment in Nepal Ramesh Prasad Bhatt the socioeconomic development of any nation depends onthe exploitation of her natural resources, both renewableand non-renewable (Anneveldt & Pasman, 2001), many therefore believe that these resources should be quickly explored and exploited in order to develop and improve theundernourished economy. In the face of this accelerateddevelopment, many projects are carried out to extensivescales and for extended periods, with little or no concern forthe environment.Many environmental disasters would have been avertedor minimized if the authorities and agencies concernedhad carried out the proper EIA studies before embarkingon activities (Arimoro, 2001). It is noteworthy, however,that some developing countries are beginning to know andappreciate the long-term effects and dire consequences of environmental deterioration. With increased awarenesscampaign and public enlightenment, many more have cometo the knowledge of how and what they need to do to keepthe environment.The EIA generates a substantive and valuableenvironmental resource database. This database should be properly kept for future decision-making, managementplanning, and monitoring of the nation's resources.International agencies have emphasized the need andimportance of developing EIAs as a powerful methodologicaltool to manage data and allow this management to extendinto the long-term (Eedy, 1995). Simulations and modelsof environmental problems and their resolution can bedesigned within the GIS platform.Since the GIS is a dependable tool for problem solvingand decision-making, its versatile applicability andutility could be deployed for carrying out meaningful andeffective EIA in Nepal, where new developmental projects with multidisciplinary and environmental characteristicsabound. The integration of GIS into EIA Erickson (1994) identied four methodologies associated with impact assessment, each with its own strengths and  HYDRO NEPAL ISSUE NO. 4 JANUARY, 2009 22  weaknesses. As such, it might be futile searching for anideal technique. A more realistic approach is to identify therelative merits of these alternatives. This way, a combinationof techniques can be chosen to meet the needs of a particularproblem.The four methodologies are: Overlay, Checklist, Matrix   and  Network . The Overlay method  of impact assessment requiresphysical or computerized overlays of individual maps of social and physical attributes of the project area. The datait uses include topological data, air dispersal patterns, landand resource use data, wildlife, surface and ground waterintakes. Such data may be obtained from aerial photography and satellite remote sensing. This method thrives ongraphical display of data, but it is limited in that it lacksanalytical capabilities. GIS is the ultimate tool for overlay EIA. The Checklist method  can be a very simple or complexlist of environmental components, attributes and processes, which are categorized under disciplinary headings suchas geology, vegetation and air. GIS provides a computerplatform for organizing, storing and analyzing thesechecklists. The Matrix method  , which is a modication of Checklist,facilitates relating specic project activities to specic typesof impacts. Matrices are required because they emphasizeonly direct impacts. They force consideration of impactof each aspect of a proposal for a range of environmentalconcerns and they consider both the magnitude andimportance of impacts. Again, GIS provides a powerful toolfor organizing, analyzing and storing matrices. The Network methodology denes a network of possibleimpacts that may be triggered by project activities and thatrequire the analyst to trace out project actions and directand indirect consequences. From the network methodology,direct, secondary, tertiary and other higher order impacts of action may be traced out. This method cuts across disciplinary lines and it forces the identication of site-specic factorsand conditions necessary for the establishment of a proposedcause-effect relationship. This technique however requiresthat the analyst be knowledgeable in the various types of environmental components and dynamics (Erickson, 1994).On a GIS platform, the analyst is further aided as large volumes of data can be better analyzed in a short while. The use of GIS Geographic Information System can be used and appliedextensively for environmental impact assessment issuesprevalent in many other developing nations including Nepal.Some areas where GIS will be useful include:• Storage, analysis and display of large data sets.Often EIAs are in undeveloped areas resulting innew and valuable databases for future monitoring orenvironmental management programs.• Database creation, documentation and management;Environmental impact modeling. Models and GISare both computer based and thus easily integrated(Erickson, 1994).• Environmental data and EIA analyses.• Habitat Suitability Index. Habitat quality for wildlifepopulation has a spatial component across largegeographic areas (Lai, Mills & Cheng, 2000). HabitatSuitability Index (HSI) models have been widely usedto document the quality and quantity of availablehabitat for a specic wildlife species. In impactassessment, HSI represents the best long-termevaluator of the overall project (Eedy, 1995).• Aid in decision-making or policy formulation.• Environmental Impact Auditing. Environmental Impact Mapping and Analysis GIS can be used to map the sensitivity of the environmentand its components to proposed projects. It also hasthe capabilities of carrying out various analyses on bothlocational and non-locational data. GIS analyses includestatistical analysis, trend analysis, overlays, buffering,distance analysis, cost analysis and many more. In relationto EIA, Eedy (1995) has identied the following analyses which are appropriate to GIS:• Site Impact Prediction• Wider Area Impact Prediction• Corridor Analysis• Cumulative Effects Analysis and EA Audits• Real-Time Environmental Impacts Prediction --------------------------  Ramesh Prasad Bhatt  is Executive Director of Institute of  Ecology and Environment (IEE), P.O. Box 23133, Kathmandu, Nepal. Corresponding address: rameshfecologist@enet.com.np,rameshbhatta@yahoo.com References A nneveldt, E. & M. Pasman, 2001,  Biodiversity in EIAGuidelines: A Study on the Extent to which Biodiversity isCurrently Being Addressed in the EIA Guidelines of the South Asian Countrie s, Regional Environmental Assessment Program(REAP) Internship Report, Kathmandu: International Unionfor Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Arimoro, A.O., 2001, ‘Desertication, biodiversity andenvironmental problems in the agricultural and socio-economic development of Nigeria: Causes, consequences andrecommendations’, in R. Wiseman and L. Hopkins (eds.),   Sowing the Seeds for Sustainability: Agriculture, Biodiversity, Economics and Society (Proceedings of the 8th InteractiveSession Held at the 2nd IUCN World Conservation Congress, Amman, Jordan, 7 October 2000), p.32-35.   Eedy, W.,   1995, ‘The use of GIS in environmental assessment’, in  Impact Assessment  (International Association for Impact Assessment, IAIA), 13(20): 199-206.  HYDRO NEPAL ISSUE NO. 4 JANUARY, 2009 23 Erickson, P.A., 1994,  A Practical Guide To Environmental  Impact Assessment, New York: Academic Press . Hassan, H. & O. Kjorven, 1993, Geographic Information Systems for Environmental Assessment and Review, in World  Bank Environmental Assessment Sourcebook (Update No.3), Washington DC: World Bank.Hassan, H., 1995,  Implementing Geographic Information Systems in Environmental Assessment  , in World Bank Environmental Assessment Sourcebook (Update No.9), Washington DC: World Bank.Jacobs, P. & B. Sadler, 1989,  Sustainable Development and  Environmental Assessment: Perspectives on Planning for aCommon Future, Ottawa: Canadian Environmental AssessmentResearch Council.Lai, Y., L.W. Mills & C. Cheng, 2000, ‘Implementation of ageographic information system (GIS) to determine wildlifehabitat quality using habitat suitability index’, GIS Development  Net, The Asian GIS Portal.  World Bank, 1993, Geographic Information Systems for Environmental Assessment and Review, in World Bank Environmental Assessment Sourcebook (Update No.3), Washington DC: World Bank. World Bank, 1993, The World Bank and Environmental  Assessment: An Overview, in World Bank Environmental  Assessment Sourcebook (Update No.1), Washington DC: WorldBank.
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