Environmental impact assessment (EIA) procedures are important means for integrating environmental concerns into development projects and for providing access to information and public participation.
Environmental impact assessment (EIA) is an evaluation used to predict and address the likely environmental and social consequences of a proposed activity, such as a proposed government policy. EIAs are usually legally required and enforced. Using EIA can facilitate the rejection of socially and environmentally unacceptable development policies.
The roles and responsibilities of the public, private, formal and informal sectors need to be understood and then put to good effect in determining and carrying out policies at the local level. Moreover, questions related to the rights and societal responsibilities of individual people and to short- and long-term planning perspectives and their intended and unintended consequences ought to be addressed. Strategic and systematic communication and information transfer need to be regarded as effective policy instruments that can be used in a complementary way with others, such as effectively collecting and using data.
There is potential to build on the experience with EIA and increase its effectiveness in three ways: first, by including health impacts to a greater degree than hitherto; second, by enabling the public to participate to a greater extent, especially in the phase of defining the scope of an EIA; and third, by broadening the types of decision-making covered to include those on policies, plans, programmes and legislation relating to the environment or environment-related health. Limiting EIA to the level of decision-making on projects is tantamount to relying on an "end-of-pipe" solution.
In future, any activity which requires an environmental impact assessment should, as a matter of routine, include a health assessment. These views are consistent with those set out in the European Charter for Environment and Health and by the Commission for Sustainable Development. In the absence of more systematic consideration of health matters, it is inevitable that some developments are storing up environmental health problems for the future.
Over the past few decades, environmental impact assessment (EIA) of projects has provided a particularly important mechanism for involving the public in a certain category of decision-making, in a growing number of countries. None the less, it must be acknowledged that in its present form EIA, like the related discipline of risk assessment, has not prevented the spread of environmentally hazardous technologies and practices.