In Sri Lanka EIA was first introduced by the Coast Conservation (Amendment) Act No. 57 of 1981. This applies to projects that come within the "Coastal Zone". The "Coastal Zone" comprises of the area lying within a limit of 300 meters land ward of the mean high water line and a limit of 2 kilo meters seawards of the mean low water line. Under the Act, identification of projects that require EIA is left to the discretion of the Director, Coast Conservation Department.
The National Environmental (Amendment) Act No. 56 of 1988 introduced EIA, as a part of the strategy to achieve sustainable development for the entire country and the Central Environmental Authority was assigned regulatory functions.
Part IV C of the amendment act mandated that all "prescribed" development projects are required to be subjected to Environmental Impact Assessment. Only large scale development projects that are likely to have significant impacts on environment are listed as prescribed projects. In addition "prescribed projects" if located in "environmental sensitive areas" are required to undergo EIA irrespective of their magnitude.
The prescribed projects are listed in the gazette No 772/22 of 24th June 1993, 859/14 of 23rd February 1995, 1104/22 of 5th November 1999 and 1108/1 of 29th November 1999.
The National Environmental Act stipulates that approval for all prescribed projects must be granted by a Project Approving Agency (PAA). At present, 23 Government Agencies have been designated as PAAs. A single Project Approving Agency is established as responsible for administrating the EIA process for a project. When there is more than one PAA is involved the appropriate PAA is decided by the CEA. It is important to note that a state agency which is a project proponent can not function as a PAA for that project.
Project Approving Agencies are listed in the Gazette Extra Ordinary No. 859/14 of 23rd February 1995 and Gazette Extra Ordinary ,No. 1373/6 of 29th December 2004.
The National Environmental Act has identified two levels in the EIA process. If the environmental impacts of the project are not very significant then the project proponent may be asked to do an Initial Environmental Examination (IEE), which is a relatively short and simple study. However, if the potential impacts appear to be more significant, the project proponent may be asked to do an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) which is a more detailed and comprehensive study of environmental impacts.
EIA reports must be kept open for public comments for 30 working days. IEE reports have been exempted from this requirement. However, an Initial Environmental Examination report shall be deemed to be a public document for the purposes of sections 74 and 76 of the Evidence Ordinance (Chapter 21) and shall be open for inspection by the public.
EIA provisions are also included in the Fauna and Flora (Amended) Act No. 49 of 1993. According to this Act, any development activity of any description what so ever proposed to be established within one mile from the boundary of any National Reserve, is required to be subject to EIA, and written approval should be obtained from the Director General, Department of Wild Life Conservation prior to implementation of such projects.