Types of Environmental Impacts: Direct , Indirect , Cumulative and Induced Impact


Some of the environmental impacts are : 1. Direct Impact, 2. Indirect Impact, 3.Cumulative impacts and 4.Induced Impact

Direct Impacts:

Direct impacts occur through direct interaction of an activity with an environmental, social, or economic component.


For example, a discharge of any industry or an effluent from the Effluent Treatment Plant (ETP) from the industrial estates into a river may lead to a decline in water quality in terms of high biological oxygen demand (BOD) or dissolved oxygen (DO) or rise of water toxins.

Indirect Impacts:

Indirect impacts on the environment are these which are not a direct result of the project, often produced away from or as a result of a complex impact pathway. The indirect impacts are also known as secondary or even third level impacts.

For example, ambient air SO2 rise due to stack emissions may deposit on land as SO4 and cause acidic soils. Another example of indirect impact is the decline in water quality due to rise in temperature of water bodies receiving cooling water discharge from the nearby industry.

This may, in turn, lead to a secondary indirect impact on aquatic flora in that water body and may further cause reduction in fish population. Reduction in fishing harvests, affecting the income of fishermen is a third level impact. Such impacts are characterized as socioeconomic (third level) impacts.


The indirect impacts may also include growth- inducing impacts and other effects related to induced changes to the pattern of land use or additional road network, population density or growth rate (e.g. around a power project). In the process, air, water and other natural systems including the ecosystem may also be affected.

Cumulative Impacts:

Cumulative impact consists of an impact that is created as a result of the combination of the project evaluated in the EIA together with other projects causing related impacts. These impacts occur when the incremental impact of the project is combined with the cumulative effects of other past, present and reasonably foreseeable future projects.

Induced Impacts:

The cumulative impacts can be, due to induced actions of projects and activities that may occur if the action under assessment is implemented such as growth inducing impacts and other effects related to induced changes to the pattern of future land use or additional road network, population density or growth rate. Induced actions may not be officially announced or be part of any official plan. Increase in workforce and nearby communities contributes to this effect.

They usually have no direct relationship with the action under assessment and represent the growth- inducing potential of an action. New roads leading from those constructed for a project, increased recreational activities, and construction of new service facilities are examples of induce actions.


However, the cumulative impacts due to induced development or third level or even secondary indirect impacts are difficult to be quantified. Because of higher levels’ of uncertainties, these’ impacts cannot be normally assessed over a long time horizon. An EIA practitioner usually can only guess as to what such induced impacts may be and the possible extent of their implications on the environmental factors.


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