Social Impact Assessment- Guidelines and Principles

By “social impacts” we mean the consequences to human populations of any public or private ac-tions-that alter the ways in which people live, work, play, relate to one another, organize to meet their needs and generally cope as members of society. The term also includes cultural impacts involving changes to the norms, values, and beliefs that guide and rationalize their cognition of themselves and their society.

However, we define Social Impact Assessment (SIA) is also defined as “ processes of analysing, monitoring and managing the intended and unintended social consequences, both positive and negative, of planned interventions (policies, programs, plans, projects) and any social change processes invoked by those interventions. Its primary purpose is to bring about a more sustainable and equitable biophysical and human environment.

Legal Mandates and Administrative Procedures for Social Impact Assessment

Under section 12 of PEPA, 1997, in order to identify “actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment”, the proponents must first prepare an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) or Initial Environmental Examination (IEE), containing a section prepared by using the social sciences TechniquesThe social science components of EIAs/IEE s are called social or socioeconomic impact assessments, or simply SIA’s. The EIA’s/IEES are thus intended to provide a kind of full-disclosure procedure for federal decision-makers, who are then expected to consider the negative as well as the positive implications of potential courses of action, and the unintended as well as the intended consequences, before they proceed.
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All international Financial Imitations, World Bank and Asian Development Bank require public consultation as an integeral part Environmental Impact Assessment studies. Further, after the promulgation of Pakistan Environmental Protection Act, 1997 and Rules and Regulation made thereunder, like many other parts of the world, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Initial Environmental Examination has become the key component of environ-mental planning and decision making in Pakistan. More recently, planners and decision makers have recognized a need for better under-standing the social consequences of projects, pro-grams and policies. In response to this need guiding principles to involve public, a major stakeholder, have also been notified under name of “Guidelines for Public Consultation, with the purpose to provide working guidelines and principles that will assist EPAs, Public and private bodies in fulfilling their obligations under Act, 1997.

Table- 1 presents a brief chronology listing statutes and regulations that directly or indirectly man-date the conduct of social impact assessment in Pakistan.

Table-1.          Regulations Requiring Mandatory Social Impact Assessment in Pakistan





The Pakistan Environmental Protection Act, 1997 Under section 12 Calls for Submission of EIA/IEE


Guidelines for Public Consultation Calls for the integrated use of the social sciences in assessing impacts “on the human environment”. Also requires the identification of methods and procedures…which insure that presently un-quantified environmental amenities and values be given appropriate consideration.


National Environmental Policy, 2005


Link between Environmental Impact Assessment and Social Impact Assessment

The Link between Environmental Impact Assessment and Social Impact Assessment Impacts on the social environment resemble bio-physical impacts in several ways.

  • Social and biophysical impacts can vary in desirability, ranging from the desirable to the adverse.
  • They also vary in scale-the question of whether a facility will create 50 or 1000 jobs, for example, or will have the potential to spill 50 or 1000 gallons of toxic waste.
  • Another consideration involves the extent of du-ration of impacts in time and space. Like bio-physical impacts, some social impacts can be of short duration, while others can last a lifetime; and some communities “return to normal” quite quickly once a source of disruption is removed, while other do not.
  • Social impacts can also vary in intensity or severity, a dimension that is defined differently in different project settings, just as an objective biophysical impact (e.g., a predicted loss of 75 sea otters) might have a minor effect on populations in one location (e.g., off the coast of Alaska), while amounting to significant fraction of the remaining population in another location (e.g., off the cost of California).
  • Similarly, there are differences in the degree to which both type of impacts are likely to be cumulative, at one extreme, or mutually counter-balancing, at the other.

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