The reality of environment and development are closely related. They all aim at improving welfare of the society. This is because the environment provides the natural resources for developmental purposes.
However, the type of development adopted may cause problems which may destroy the environment that sustains it and instead lowers the quality of life which it endeavours to enhance.
This therefore necessitates Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as a tool for planning, prevention, and mitigating environmental impacts caused by socio-economic development.
Having EIA in place predicts, prevents or minimises adverse environmental consequences such as air and water pollution, deforestation, degradation of wetland and soil and deforestation.
It guarantees long term benefits and addresses the issues related to the equitable use of resources.
As Rwanda’s economy booms more than ever before, investors ought to value EIA as a tool that ensures sustainable profits accrued on their investment.
It is important for all developers who want to see their investments growing and productive to appreciate the value of this important tool for planning, predicting, preventing and minimising the adverse impacts to the environment, which may be caused by socio-economic development projects or programme.
The operation and utilisation of EIA is based on general and specific sector guidelines. According to the general guidelines and procedures for EIA, many actors are involved in planning and approval process of the projects.
The process is participatory in nature as it incorporates interests of public and private stakeholders, residents and communities. The exercise ensures that the voice of everyone in the society is heard and considered in the development policies and plans.
Corrective efforts among stakeholders and in particular the communities who heavily rely on natural resources are imperative to promote continuity of the projects.
The general guidelines go further to identify roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders in EIA process as follows:
Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA), an Authority charged with integration of environmental concerns in all development plans and programmes to achieve sustainable development of the country has a responsibility to organise the EIA procedure by undertaking screening, scoping projects, conducting EI Study, reviewing EIA reports based on the term of reference, conducting public hearing, and taking decisions on approval or disapproval of proposed projects.
The Authority is also responsible for monitoring the implementation of environmental management plan (mitigation measures) recommended by EIA studies.
Since many relevant parties take part in EIA process, developers have direct responsibility for the project and should provide necessary information about the project at all stages of the EIA process.
Developers hire experts to undertake EIA studies on their behalf and answer questions about potential impacts and proposed mitigation measures at public hearings.
Developers also have the responsibility to implement the environment management plan including mitigation measures as proposed in the EIA report and carry out subsequence environmental monitoring and auditing for industries that have established without EIA at the initial development stage of their investment.
EIA experts are professionals registered with REMA to undertake impact studies.
They help the developer to carry out EIA, design mitigation measures, prepare EIA reports, and design environmental management and monitoring plans.
Ministries or departments have the responsibility for management and protection of environmental resources, public health and socio-economic development.
Lead agencies have the responsibility to take part in EIA of projects under their sectors.
They provide valuable technical information to EIA experts during EIA studies and are involved in the review.
Communities have the right to take part in the EIA process.
Public participation allows important social and environmental problems to be identified and gain consensus on nature and adequacy of proposed mitigation measures and recommendations.
The role of the public in the EIA includes contributing information and advice to EIA studies during scoping and public hearing process.
The public also advises project developers and REMA on approaches to avoid, minimise or compensate for adverse environmental impacts.
The Organic Law 04/2005, Article 67 states that every project shall be subjected to environmental impact assessment, before obtaining authorisation for its implementation. This applies to programmes and policies that may affect the environment.
Just as management principles are utilised in a business firm or company to maintain sustainable production and growth, so should EIA be applied to projects and activities to guarantee their sustainability if the future generations are to benefit from the present ventures.