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The following is an excerpt from the World Bank's Operational Policy 4.01, Environmental Assessment, one of the Bank's ten Safeguard Policies. For more information on environmental assessment and the Bank, go to the Environmental Assessment site. For more information on the Bank's policies, click here.
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The Bank undertakes environmental screening of each proposed project to determine the appropriate extent and type of Environmental Assessment (EA) needed. The Bank classifies the proposed project into one of four categories, depending on the type, location, sensitivity, and scale of the project, as well as the nature and magnitude of its potential environmental impacts.

Category A: A Category A project is likely to have significant adverse environmental impacts that are sensitive, diverse, or unprecedented. These impacts may affect an area broader than the sites or facilities subject to physical works. The EA for a Category A project examines the project's potential negative and positive environmental impacts, compares them with those of feasible alternatives (including the "without project" scenario), and recommends any measures needed to prevent, minimize, mitigate, or compensate for adverse impacts and improve environmental performance.  For a Category A project, the borrower is responsible for preparing a report, normally an Environmental Impact Assessment (or a suitably comprehensive regional or sectoral EA).

Category B: A Category B project has potential adverse environmental impacts on human populations or environmentally important areas - including wetlands, forests, grasslands, and other natural habitats - which are less adverse than those of Category A projects. These impacts are site-specific; few if any of them are irreversible; and in most cases mitigatory measures can be designed more readily than for Category A projects. The scope of EA for a Category B project may vary from project to project, but it is narrower than that of Category A assessment. Like Category A, a Category B environmental assessment examines the project's potential negative and positive environmental impacts and recommends any measures needed to prevent, minimize, mitigate, or compensate for adverse impacts and improve environmental performance. The findings and results of EA for Category B projects are described in the project documentation (Project Appraisal Document and Project Information Document).

Category C: A Category C project is likely to have minimal or no adverse environmental impacts. Beyond screening, no further EA action is required.

Category D:  This special category for environmental projects was included in the original Operational Directive on Environmental Assessment issued in 1989.  This category was deleted in the 1991 revision of the Operational Directive and is no longer in use. It was originally used to classify environmental projects for which a separate environmental assessment may not have been required due to the fact that the environment was a major focus of project preparation.

Category F: A Category F project involves investment of Bank funds through a financial intermediary, in subprojects that may result in adverse environmental impacts. (Also known as Category FI.)