An investigation of the effectiveness of public participation in the environmental impact assessment (EIA) implementation process : Rwandan case studies.
There is an increased need for PP in making decisions that affects their livelihood and the environment surrounding them. Rwanda continues to strive to initiate programs and projects to ensure improved living conditions for the citizens. It is important and necessary to ensure that the interested and affected community member take an active role in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) decision making process. Without consultation and meaningful participation of interested and affected parties (IAP’s), there is a serious danger of conflict of interests during project implementation. Such conflict of interests so often contributes to project delays through litigations, loss of invested resources and environmental degradation. The need for meaningful public involvement in the EIA process has been recognized by the World Bank, and the European Union Governments, the United Nations, and many governments around the world. There is also a large amount of research literature that supports the concept of the EIA process. This study has 4 key objectives, namely; 1) Determine the requirements for, and barriers to effective PP in the EIA implementation process; 2) review three EIA practical case studies in Rwanda in order to investigate the effectiveness in ensuring PP in practice; 3) explore the views of Interested and Affected Parties (Environmental consultants, NGOs, REMA and community representatives) with regard to the effectiveness of PP in EIA processes in Rwanda; 4) To consider the future for meaningful PP in the EIA process in Rwanda. In order to achieve the objectives of the study, a wide selection of literature on PP in the EIA process has been reviewed; document analysis, questionnaire interviews, and three case studies have been reviewed. The findings of this research reveal that, with specific reference to the cases studied, the current EIA implementation process in Rwanda is ineffective in ensuring meaningful public involvement. Some procedural challenges have been identified in the implementation process and these acts as a barrier to effective participation. They include: • inadequate follow-up of compliance, • absence of the PP guidelines, • late public involvement in the EIA process and • poor communication mechanisms. The following recommendations are made to enhance meaningful PP in the EIA process in Rwanda: • that there be a full exchange of information between developers and IAP’s involvement should be increased to ensure informed decision-making and meaningful input; • that there be early public involvement in the EIA Process to reduce manipulation and possible conflicts; • that PP guidelines should be established and formalized to ensure effective monitoring, enforcement and compliance.