EIA: A Collaborative Process
The ElA process starts when a project is first being designed. If environmental risks are to be expected, it is in the interest of the developer to identify alternative plans to reduce the environmental risk or develop measures to mitigate the negative impact. The Government and the developer share responsibility for assessing potential environmental risks and for taking actions to reduce those risks. NEA, in collaboration with government departments and private sector representatives, is charged with reviewing all new projects and determining whether or not they are "environmentally sound", prior to granting environmental clearance.
The EIA Process - Step by Step
Initial Screening: All project proponents and developers are required to complete the Screening Form. On this form, the developer will provide basic information, which allows a determination of the likely negative environmental impacts to be expected. The proposed project may fall into one of three categories: no' or minimal anticipated environmental impacts; sizeable or significant anticipated environmental impacts; or the information provided is insufficient to accurately assess the project. Some types of projects automatically require a full assessment because, based on experience and the nature of the project, the risk of negative impact is great. In other cases, based on experience and the information provided on the Screening Form, it may be clear that. Negative environmental impacts will be insignificant. In these cases, a project will be granted environmental clearance without further study requirements.
Preliminary Assessment: Determining whether a project requires an in-depth impact study cannot always be done through the initial screening process alone. In some cases, additional information and/or a site visit may be necessary. Information generated during the preliminary assessment stage should indicate whether anticipated negative impacts are significant and therefore warrant a more in-depth study. A project may be granted environmental clearance based on the preliminary assessment or may be required to conduct a full environmental impact study.
Scoping : If it is determined that there are likely to be negative impacts associated with a proposed project, a team of technical and policy experts will develop the terms of reference or "scope" for the environmental impact study. During the scoping exercise the most important issues for further study are identified. By clearly defining the most critical areas for investigation, the cost of the study can be minimized at the same time as addressing the areas of high environmental risk.
Environmental Impact Study: After the "scope" of the study has been defined, the developer convenes a team to conduct the study. The developer bears the full cost of the study and the time frame for completion of the study is stipulated by the developer. However, if the study is not conducted within a reasonable time frame, the Government may require that the project repeat the full screening process it conditions changed in the interim.
Review of the Impact Study : The study will be review by several government agencies and bodies. The public will have access to the study and their comments will be taken into account when determining environmental clearance Public hearings may be organized to enhance the review process.
Environmental Clearance : After reviewing the environmental impact study, one of three decisions may result: granting of environmental clearance, granting of a provisional environmental, clearance with conditions, or rejection of the proposed project based on overwhelming and unmitigated environmental consequences. The environmental clearance is a prerequisite to obtaining other government mandated licensing and operating permits.
Auditing : The developer, the Government, and the public all have a role to play in auditing. The developer must monitor all project activities to ensure compliance with all conditions stipulated in the environmental clearance. The NEA will carry out periodic audits of all projects to ensure conformity to environmental standards of The Gambia. The public has an important role to play in environmental monitoring, serving as the "public watchdog" to make sure that projects are not polluting or harming the environment.Identifying Environmental Risk Environmental Impact Assessment, or EIA, as it I is often called, is a planning and management tool: designed to predict whether a proposed project will have a negative impact on the environment and how these impacts can be prevented or mitigated. The EIA process will vary depending on the type and complexity of a proposed venture.
In some cases, it can be determined very quickly that there is little threat to the environment. In other cases, where the proposed activities are more complex, it may require that an in-depth study be conducted to determine the full impact on the environment. In all cases, attention is paid to minimizing the cost of the EIA process, while at the same time maximizing the protection of our environment. As the saying goes, "prevention is better than the cure." Environmental clean-up efforts are costly and sometimes the environmental damage is irreversible. By taking steps to anticipate negative environmental impacts and by implementing corrective measures before an environmental or public health disaster occurs, limited resources can be allocated to other important sectors of the economy rather than used for costly environmental clean-up.
Negative Environmental Impacts
One need not look too far or too long to find negative environmental impacts. Foul smelling, stagnant water, oil or chemicals contaminating the soil, dark smoke billowing from smokestacks or vehicles, coastal erosion, and deforestation all of these, and many others, represent negative environmental impacts. In some cases, the effect is immediate such as an oil spill in the mangroves will swiftly kills fish, birds, and plants. In other cases, the impact takes longer to realize. Cutting down trees may not have an impact until the following rainy season when the topsoil washes away as the tree roots no longer hold the soil in place. In other cases, it takes generations to feel the effects. We may not notice hazardous gases in the air we breath, but over prolonged periods of time, it will affect our health and our childrens' health. EIA offers the opportunity to take preventative measures before damaging our environment and risking the public health.