Environmental Impact Assessment – Do the Regulations Apply to Your Project?

In 1985 the EIA Directive (EU legislation) on Environmental Impact Assessment of the effects of projects on the environment was introduced. It was amended in 1997. The requirements of the Directives are incorporated within environmental impact assessment Malaysia┬áRegulations 1999″ and their equivalents for other parts of the country. Not all development projects are covered by the regulations. In particular the regulations do not apply to most small scale development projects. I regularly receive questions from developers who want to know if their project is covered by the regulations and in this article I will describe the process to determine if the regulations apply to a particular project.

As an example we consider a new fifteen storey office block on a 0.4 ha site that currently comprises a non-listed Victorian four storey building and situated in close proximity to a number of grade II and grade II * listed buildings.

The 1999 EIA regulations distinguish between two different categories of development that will require or potentially require to undergo an environmental impact assessment. These developments are described in schedule 1 and schedule 2 of the regulations. Development proposals that would fit any of the descriptions in schedule 1 always require an environmental impact assessment. Schedule 1 developments are generally large infrastructure projects or development that is generally regarded as having a high potential for pollution. Examples of the latter development types include waste management sites and power stations. The proposed development in my example does not match any of the development types described in schedule 1.

Development that is classed as ‘schedule 2 development’ only requires an EIA to be carried out when it is likely that a significant environmental impact will occur as a result of the development. To determine whether a development is a schedule 2 development is more complex than it is to determine a schedule 1 development. There are three aspects that require to be considered:
1. The descriptions of development categories in schedule 2.
2. The threshold mentioned in schedule 2 for the development category.
3. The presence of any sensitive areas as defined in the regulations.

The development matches the description in Schedule 2, 10(b) Urban development projects, including the construction of shopping centres and car parks, sports stadiums, leisure centres and multiplex cinemas. This category covers a wide variety of development types including office, retail and residential development projects.
For a development in this category to become a schedule 2 development its area needs to exceed 0.5 ha, or it needs to be situated in a sensitive area. The footprint of the development area in my development, taken as the red line planning application boundary, is less than 0.5 ha. Therefore, based on this criterion, the development would not be a schedule 2 development.