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Why Assess Environmental Impacts?

Why Assess Environmental Impacts?

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Why Assess Environmental Impacts?

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  1. Why Assess Environmental Impacts?

  2. Environmental impact assessment • A formal process process for identifying the likely effects of particular activities or projects on the environment, and on human health and welfare

  3. Why did EIA start? • By the early 1960s in the US and other industrial countries, it was clear that something was wrong

  4. “30 Years of Environmental Progress,” USEPA, 2000.

  5. Cuyahoga River burns in 1966 (3rd time). Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. “30 Years of Environmental Progress,” USEPA, 2000.

  6. Environmental crisis in the industrial economies • 1952 “killer fog” kills 4,000 in London • 1963 Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring documents the negative effects of DDT • 1966 Cayahoga River in Ohio catches fire

  7. What was happening? • Looking back from today, the causes were obvious: • Population Growth • Natural Resource Pressures • Urbanization • Industrialization • Unrestrained profit motive • These forces were all combining to create unprecedented environmental damage

  8. EIA was one policy response in industrialized countries • IN 1970, the US legislature passed the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). • NEPA required EIA for US Government projects. Mandated public input. • Now over 200 similar requirements world-wide • Other responses included regulation of industrial activity, international treaties

  9. Why should developing countries care about EIA? • Easy answer: Donor requirements. • In the early 1970s, several Pakistani workers died as a result of negligent pesticide management procedures on a USAID project. • USAID was sued by an environmental PVO, and adopted environmental review procedures to comply with NEPA (“Reg 216”) • Almost all donor agencies now have similar procedures

  10. Why should developing countries care about EIA? • The difficult answer: Because the environmental crisis faced by most developing countries is at least as serious as that of the industrialized countries in the 1960s and 70s. • Lower levels of industrialization • BUT. . . • High population growth and urbanization • Use of hazardous substances • Environmental degradation due to poverty

  11. Land degradation and desertification: satellite photo shows topsoil blowing off SW African coast, from Angola to S. Africa. NASA

  12. Chemical pollution: obsolete pesticides in Mozambique. U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization

  13. Deforestation: trees cleared for planting in Guinea. U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization

  14. Environmental crisis in the developing world • 1984 Methyl isocyanate cloud from Union Carbide plant accident in Bhopal, India kills 2,000+ • Cities with worst air quality: Developing country megacities • Millions of deaths/year from environmental conditions—particularly poor sanitation

  15. EIA supports sustainable development • Like medicine, the first principle of development should be to “first, do no harm.” • In its history, the development profession has often not fulfilled this basic mandate • The environment is complicated—without EIA, it is difficult to know when harm will come • EIA should also be proactive.

  16. EIA is critical to ensure that the environment will support vital ecosystem services upon which all human subsistence and economic activity depends.

  17. The role of EIA in conservation-oriented projects • EIA is was developed to assure that the environmental consequences of economic/social development projects were adequately considered. • So. . .Is EIA necessary if the goal of the project is environmental in nature?

  18. The role of EIA in conservation-oriented projects YES!

  19. The role of EIA in conservation-oriented projects • Because EIA is: • a tool for considering secondary effects • environmental, social and economic • essential to gathering baseline information for the project • . . .and to assessing results • The result: The separation between EIA and project development becomes indistinct.