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ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT (EIA): A Way for NGOs to be Effective. by Robert B. Smythe, Ph.D. Potomac Resource Consultants Chevy Chase, Maryland 20815 USA. Volunteer Member, International Committee, SIERRA CLUB.
Robert B. Smythe, Ph.D.
Volunteer Member, International Committee,
Like China, we have many environmental NGOS, whose members are active at all levels of government.
Why are we all here?? ….to share our experiences and to learn from each other new ways to protect our environment.
B.S in Biology, Bucknell University, Pennsylvania
U.S Peace Corps Volunteer secondary school science teacher in Nigeria
Senior Staff Member, Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), Executive Office of the President, Washington, D.C.
Ph.D. in Ecology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
Senior Staff Member, Board on Environmental Studies, U.S. National Academy of Sciences
Director, U.S. Programs, World Wildlife Fund/USA
C.E.O., Potomac Resource Consultants—specializing in environmental impact assessment and natural resources management policy analysis for various government and private sector clients.
Member, International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA)
a PROCESS for decision-making,
NOT a formula for preparing a document.
What is the purpose of EIA?
Here are a few answers—for example:
To “…encourage productive and enjoyable harmony between man and his environment; to promote efforts which will prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and biosphere and stimulate the health and welfare of man; to enrich the understanding of the ecological systems and natural resources important to the Nation....”
(National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, (NEPA) Section 2, as enacted by the Congress of the United States of America
“To implement a strategy of sustainable development, prevent adverse impact on the environment after the implementation of plans and construction projects, and promote coordinated development of the economy, society, and environment.”
(Environmental Impact Assessment Law, 1600/20002.10.28, adopted at the 30th Meeting of the Standing Committee of the 9th National Peoples Congress, Peoples Republic of China)
To allow government officials, business leaders, and all concerned citizens to understand the likely environmental consequences of proposed actions, and to cooperate in making wise decisions that restore and maintain the quality of our shared environment for future generations.
R. B. Smythe
1. EIA must be undertaken EARLY in the development of proposed projects, plans, and programs, and must be completed BEFORE a decision to proceed is made.
2. EIA must be an OBJECTIVE, IMPARTIAL analytical process, not a way of promoting or “selling” a proposal to decision-makers—it must use accepted scientific principles and methods.
3. EIA must analyze all REASONABLY FORESEEABLE environmental impacts or effects of a proposed action— effects may be short-term, long-term, direct, or indirect.
4. The process of EIA must be OPEN – to government officials at all levels, to potential stakeholders (those with direct interests in the proposed action), and to the PUBLIC.
5. There must be an early, public SCOPING stage in EIA to consider ALTERNATIVES and to help focus subsequent analysis on the MORE SIGNIFICANT potential impacts – rather than studying all possible environmental effects—the GOAL is to reach a decision.
6. Government officials responsible for implementing EIA must ENCOURAGE (not just tolerate) PUBLIC PARTICIPATION in the process from the scoping stage forward.
7. In all EIA processes, effective MITIGATION MEASURES must be identified and included—to avoid, minimize, or reduce the adverse effects of all potentially significant impacts.
8. EIA reports must include an ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT SYSTEM (EMS) or Action Plan to MONITOR the implementation phase of the project, plan, or program and provide for CORRECTIVE actions—such action plans must have assured FUNDING and be legally enforceable.
1. Start with a COOPERATIVE attitude: your goal is to HELP the persons responsible to use the EIA process to benefit BOTH environment and development.
2. LEARN as much as possible about the proposal before forming your opinions; IDENTIFY the responsible persons and agencies; ASK them for all available information so that you are well-informed.
3. IDENTIFY yourself and your organization; tell officials that you want to participate in the EIA process as soon as it begins—also tell them WHY you want to participate and HOW you can contribute to making the process USEFUL for them.
4. Be polite, but also be persistent—the new EIA law gives you both the RIGHT and the RESPONSIBILITY to be a participant.
5. Do not claim to be an expert on complex issues if you are not—try to CONSULT OTHERS who have special knowledge and skills.
6. Whenever you raise an environmental PROBLEM, offer a possible SOLUTION —an alternative strategy, or location, or design, etc.
7. Provide officials with specific COMMENTS and RECOMMENDATIONS from your NGO in writing, as EARLY in the decision process as possible.
8. STAY INVOLVED in the process, even if your position and your recommendations are not initially accepted. Continue to make your concerns known to all in a RESPECTFUL but PERSUASIVE manner.
PHASE: Construction Operation Termination