A Conceptual Model for Evaluation of Ecological Impacts in Environmentally Sensitive Areas

C. Rubasinghe


The Ecological Impact Assessment (EcIA) section of an EIA report requires that ecologicalimpacts are identified and evaluated. However, a review undertaken of EIAs completedbefore 2005 in Sri Lanka was determined that EIA reports are of poor quality, with regard tothe EcIA. The review also noted that there were no clear guidelines for the proper evaluationof ecological impacts of development projects in Sri Lanka. Sensitive ecosystems could beirreversibly damaged and ecosystem services lost due to the consequences of the on-goingrapid development process unless care is taken to address the ecological impacts andintroduce mitigation measures. Therefore, this research aimed to determine whether there hasbeen an improvement in the quality of ecological impacts being addressed in EIAs completedafter 2005; and to develop a conceptual methodological framework to effectively addressecological impacts in EIAs of projects implement within environmentally sensitive areas inSri Lanka.

Ten EIAs of projects completed after 2005 in environmentally sensitive areas were examinedfor effectiveness in addressing ecological issues. Sampled EIAs were selected based on thepotential significant adverse ecological impacts due to the project and implemented withinclose proximity to protected areas that are regulated by the Forest Department and theWildlife Department in Sri Lanka. The Key parameters for adequately addressing ecologicalimpacts were identified based on the check lists described in book of Environmental ImpactAssessment (Larry, 1996) and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment report, 2005. Therebya checklist appropriate for Sri Lanka was developed to assess ecological impacts based on theprevious work undertaken in Sri Lanka and international best practices. The selected EIAswere evaluated based on the modified check list and the methodology used by Samarakoonand John in their 2005 review, (2008). Further, this study went on to develop a conceptualframework to effectively address of the ecological impacts of development projects.

The evaluation revealed that EIAs conducted after 2005 have not addressed ecologicalimpacts adequately. Ecosystem services were neglected in most EIAs. The developedconceptual framework requires assessment of baseline conditions, ecological integrity andenvironmental services in detail with a descriptive ranking system. This information is aninput to an equation developed for assessing the existing environmental conditions and topredict the significance of ecological impacts of the proposed development activities.

The composite index is a quantitative value of total ecological value of the existingenvironment/ total value of ecological impacts due to the project; Xi and Yij are value of keyparameter and value of sub parameter of each key parameter respectively; Zijk and Zijkmax aresignificance value of each sub parameter and maximum significance value of each subparameter relevant to each key parameter respectively.

This model could be used as a planning and decision making tool to ensure ecologicalimpacts of development projects are better addressed in EIA reports. The important keyparameters of any ecosystem can be applied to the model; hence it is applicable for allsensitive areas and all projects in Sri Lanka.


EIA, Development projects, Checklist, Conceptual model

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.31357/fesympo.v18i0.1886

DOI (PDF): https://doi.org/10.31357/fesympo.v18i0.1886.g991


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Proceedings of International Forestry and Environment Symposium, Sri Lanka. Published by Department of Forestry and Environmental Science, University of Sri Jayewardenepura