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Chapter 5: Preparation of terms of reference

Determining study requirements
Contents of the TOR

The need for EIAs has become increasingly important and is now a statutory requirement in many developing countries. Similarly, all major donors require some form of environmental analysis for irrigation and drainage projects. If an EIA is required, irrespective of the source of funding, the promoting agency will be required to either prepare it themselves or appoint others to do the study for them.

If the promoter intends to prepare the EIA study using its own staff, reference should be made to the publications prepared by most donors and UN agencies outlining their requirements and procedures. The World Bank Operational Directive 4.01 (1991) is perhaps the most comprehensive and well known manual and is a useful reference text. All international organizations and bilateral agencies frequently update their procedures and it is important to obtain the current version from the organization. Many United Nations agencies publish guidelines on various themes related to environmental assessment of irrigation and drainage which could be of use to developing country staff if they are to carry out an EIA and the most useful are listed in Chapter 6.

Usually government bodies do not employ sufficient staff to carry out EIAs. It is more cost effective to ask specialist consultants (local or foreign), universities or research institutions to carry out environmental assessments. In this case terms of reference (TOR) will have to be prepared by the project executing agency. As for any technical design or feasibility study, the terms of reference for the study will determine its ultimate value. The preparation of terms of reference can cause considerable difficulties for non-experts and a brief guide to the major issues that must be addressed in the TOR are given below.

Determining study requirements

There are no universal formats for terms of reference which will be suitable for every study. However, there are general rules which should be observed when preparing TOR for the EIA of irrigation and drainage proposals. The study should ensure that the consultants focus on the major issues and the most serious likely impacts. The opportunities for enhancing any positive benefits from the project should also be highlighted.

The study should identify the relevant natural resources, the eco-system and the population likely to be affected. Direct and indirect impacts must be identified and any particularly vulnerable groups or species highlighted. In some instances views will be subjective and the consultants should give an indication of the degree of risk or confidence and the assumptions on which conclusions have been drawn. In most cases the output required will be a report examining the existing environment, the impacts of the proposed project on the environment and the affects of the environment on the project, both positive and negative, the mitigating measures to be taken and any actions needed. Interim reports, for example of baseline studies, should be phased to be of maximum value to parallel technical and economic studies.

The timing of the study is important. Scoping prior to a full EIA will enable the major issues to be identified. The terms of reference for the full EIA can then be better focused. The study should be carried out early enough in the project cycle to enable recommendations to be incorporated into the project design.

The requirements stated in the TOR will determine the length of time needed for the study, the geographical boundary of the EIA, its cost and the type of expertise required. Baseline data collection, if needed, can be time consuming and will have a major impact on the cost and time needed for the study. If considerable data exists, for example a good record of water quality information and hydrological statistics, the EIA may be possible without further primary data collection. If data are scarce, time must be allowed for field measurement and analysis.

Prior to writing the TOR the following questions should be asked:

• Is the study for an environmental scoping, a full EIA or other type of study? Before preparing the TOR the purpose must be clear.

• Is the study to be for a site specific project or a regional or sectoral programme? The breadth of the study needs to be well defined.

• Will the EIA team be required to collect baseline data or does this already exist? The depth of the study and the type and quality of information already available or needed must be known.

• Who will use the final report? Different end users will often require different information. Readers may not be technical experts and careful thought should be given to the presentation of complex information.

• What output is required from the EIA study? Is an Environmental Action Plan to be prepared? A draft contents page for the final report as an annex to the TOR will give some guidance to the team carrying out the study.

• Is the team responsible for all issues or are other organizations (universities, government departments) responsible for some environmental studies? The TOR should clearly delimit responsibilities and give information on other work being done. If it is a requirement that the team liaise or work with other organizations, including NGOs, then this should be stated. Unabridged versions of the sub-contracted studies should be made available to the appraising authority for reference.

• What type of experts are needed in the team and for how long? An approximate estimate is needed to prepare a budget for the study and to estimate the time period. However, the TOR should not be too rigid on the number and type of expertise to be provided as there should be some flexibility for the team to decide on the most appropriate methodology and additional staffing.

Contents of the TOR

The TOR should commence with a brief description of the programme or project. This should include a plan of the area that will be affected either indirectly or directly. Basic data should be given on existing and proposed irrigation and drainage in the area and the catchment characteristics. The institutions that are involved in the proposal should also be given.

An overview of the local environment should follow the general description. This will include socio-economic information, land use, land tenure, water use in the area and any particular aspect of the flora and fauna. If other studies have been completed a list of available reports should be given.

A brief description should be given of the most important institutions, including those responsible for the EIA, the project executing agency and future managers. This should be presented in the form of an organogram.

A description of the work to be undertaken should give a general set of requirements for determining the potential impacts of, and impacts on, the proposed project. The TOR should require the consultants to cover the following points:

• whether a range of proposals should be considered and if so whether they would be less environmentally damaging;

• the main environmental effects of the proposed project, both in the project area and in the surrounding area and the timescale of the impacts;

• the size and extent of the impacts based as much as possible on quantitative data rather than qualitative assessment. In some cases it may be necessary to highlight certain topics (such as waterlogging, resettlement etc as discussed in Chapter 4) when a particular issue is known to be of concern. In most cases, however, it may be preferable not to mention any specific topic and make the consultant responsible for a complete review of all topics;

• those groups that will benefit and those disadvantaged by the project;

• the impact on any rare species of plant or animal in the area;

• the impact on human health;

• the control and management aspects of the project to determine if they will be effective;

• the need for further baseline data collection or other specialist studies;

• the present policy, institutional and legislative situation and future needs;

• the mitigating measures needed and how they should be incorporated into the project design;

• the monitoring and evaluation activities that are required to ensure that mitigating measures are implemented and future problems are avoided.

The TOR should give an indication of the team considered necessary for the study. Depending on the scope of the study this may include one or several of the following: an irrigation specialist, drainage specialist, rural sociologist, terrestrial ecologist (of various specializations), aquatic ecologist/fisheries expert, hydrologist, agronomist, soil chemist or physicist, economist and epidemiologist. However, as mentioned earlier the team should not be rigidly imposed on the consultant.

It is important to make provision for technology transfer. Apart from enabling in-country expertise to be built up, this will promote more involvement and understanding of the issues raised by the study. As most EIA studies are of relatively short duration, this is probably best achieved through the attachment of government staff to the consultants during the study or an insistence on the use of local government personnel for some of the tasks.

The expected date of commencement and time limit should be given. An environmental screening can be done quickly as part of the general project identification. In most cases scoping can be done in one to three months using checklists or other techniques assuming adequate data is readily available. Up to 12 months is needed for a full EIA for a medium or large scale project although this could be longer if the project is complex or considerable primary data have to be collected or field measurement undertaken.

The budget limit should be given in the TOR. The type of experts, and whether foreign or local, and the duration of their inputs will usually be the deciding cost factors although a large field survey or measurement programme with laboratory analysis could significantly increase costs.

Any assistance to be provided by the Client should be clearly stated in the TOR. Reporting requirements should be clearly stated. An annex giving a draft table of contents for the final report (the Environmental Impact Statement) is helpful as this will standardize presentation and ensure all aspects are covered by the Consultants.

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