Environmental Risk Assessment

Our Earth has been at the receiving end of all the damage caused by man-made and industrial waste. Such damages pose as an inherent hazard to the environment, thus subsequently affecting the world economy.

Such situations call for an assessment of the problems causing the damages. Environmental Risk Assessment is a similar concept. ERA is the procedure in which the inherent hazards involving natural events, technology practises, products, agents and industrial activities, and the risks posed by these are examined. ERA involves a critical review of available data for identifying and estimating the risk associated with a potential threat. The risks are examined in the assessment can be physical, biological or chemical in nature.

ERA helps in identifying risks of an emerging issue, or prioritising further action.  It has provided the basis for legislative and regulatory problems, as well as for international agreements and policy implications. It assesses a spectrum of issues, ranging from hazardous waste clean ups, land and water management, to establishing international quality and guidelines. Industry sectors, finance sectors, private sectors, government bodies, NGO’s, use ERA to examine risks of different natures.  ERA is used in a number of ways:

  • Prioritization of risks: When a company forces a number of potential environmental risks, ERA establishes their relative importance.
  • Site specific evaluation: ERA helps in determining risk associated with locating facilities, or determining risks affecting a particular site.
  • Qualitative risk assessment: ERA can be used to explain the risks in qualitative basis within any facility.
  • Transportation risk assessment: ERA tools can be used to assess risks associated with hazardous substances carried by various models of transport.

ERA faces various challenges, like different methodologies, data deficiencies and lack of active participation of stakeholders. Possible approaches to overcome these issues are harmonisation of assessment methods, protocols and recognising data in assessments, to reduce uncertainty and limitations.

In Australia, the expectations of environmental impact assessment (EIA) continue to grow due to heightened interest in environmental issues, increased public participation and better awareness of EIA processes. In response, government agencies and EIA practitioners in Australia continue to introduce and improve tools for use in EIA. Environmental risk assessment (ERA) is one such tool that has gained prominence. The immediate attraction of ERA is that it provides a systematic, transparent and consistent means to analyse potential environmental impacts.

For effective implementation, risk assessment tools must be capable of providing data relating to ecologically significant processes. This requires a better understanding of biomarkers related to health status, in order to improve their value in monitoring. Assessment of environmental disturbance requires understanding stress effects throughout the hierarchy of biological organisations. An integrated environmental management strategy must be cross disciplinary, if an effective capability is to be developed in relation to resource sustainability.

–         Utsav Gagwani.

(Research, Writing & Photography)


Environmental Economics

The rising awareness about the hazards of environmental crisis has made various countries sit up and take notice about the unavoidable requirement for environment friendly prospects for boosting their economy. This is where ‘environmental economics’ steps in.

Loosely defined, environmental economics is the study of environmental policies around the world, and their effects on their respective economies around the world. In the latter half of the 20th century, people realised that the world could face a possible environmental crisis. Contributing to their speculation, a nuclear mishap, an oil spill fouling an entire shoreline, and other such events convinced the people of the onset of an environmental crisis. A glaring example of such a crisis is Cleveland’s Cuhayoga river. The river was so contaminated with industrial waste, that it self-ignited on June 22nd, burning on for four days.

 The environment and the economy are inter related and inter dependent – both affecting each other adversely. A detailed description states that the study of environmental economics depends on :

  • The nature and scope of environmental crisis
  • The range of economic and political possibilities

Households and firms are connected to the environment, and they are interconnected too. Households and firms depend on nature for resources. They send out a fair share of consumption and production residuals in the environment.

Thankfully, nature has the power to assimilate all forms of waste. But this    power is conditional. The earth can clean up the natural wastes, just as long as it is not disturbed by excess amounts of waste. If and when the Earth fails to respond to the 3 R’s (Recovery, Recycling and Reuse), the symptoms of environmental damage appear. Thus, a rhythm exists in the use and reuse of the resources for man and by man. Earth cannot respond properly to man-made or artificial wastes. Man-made waste is piling up around us, and the extent of damage to the environment has been on the rise. All the accumulated waste cannot be cleaned up by the Earth, like a makeshift sink. The Earth has reached it’s saturation point regarding this process. It is helpless in cleaning up several types of waste, finally resulting in major environmental issues the world over.

Environmental Economics thrives to solve the problem of the environmental crisis all around the world, and so it was necessary to highlight the issue of environmental crisis on a global platform. And so the 2012 United Nations Climate Change Conference was held in Doha, from 26th November to 8th December.

The UN chief Christina Figueres published the following statement during the conference

“The necessary technology and policy tools are available to governments and societies, but time is very short — only 36 months to reach a universal agreement before 2015. What we now need is to urgently implement the decisions that have been taken at the inter-governmental level and to further strengthen actions already under way”

– Utsav Gagwani.

(Research, Writing & Photography)