The range of stakeholders involved in an EIA typically includes:
- the people â€“ individuals, groups and communities â€“ who are affected by the proposal;
- the proponent and other project beneficiaries;
- government agencies;
- NGOs and interest groups; and
- others, such as donors, the private sector, academics etc.
Individuals or groups in the affected community will want to know what is proposed; what the likely impacts are; and how their concerns will be understood and taken into account. They will want assurances that their views will be carefully listened to and considered on their merits. They will want proponents to address their concerns. They will also have knowledge of the local environment and community that can be tapped and incorporated into baseline data.
Understandably, proponents will wish to shape the proposal to give it the best chance of success. Often, this involves trying to create public understanding and acceptance of the proposal through the provision of basic information. More creatively, project design can be improved through using public inputs on alternatives and mitigation and understanding local knowledge and values.
The government agencies involved in the EIA process will want to have their policy and regulatory responsibilities addressed in impact analysis and mitigation consideration. For the competent authority, an effective public involvement programme can mean the proposal may be less likely to become controversial in the later stages of the process. For the responsible EIA agency, the concern will be whether or not the public involvement process conforms to requirements and procedures.
Comments from NGOs can provide a useful policy perspective on a proposal; for example, the relationship of the proposal to sustainability objectives and strategy. Their views may also be helpful when there are difficulties with involving local people. However, this surrogate approach should be considered as exceptional; it cannot substitute for or replace views which should be solicited directly.
Other interested groups
Other interested groups include those who are experts in particular fields and can make a significant contribution to the EIA study. The advice and knowledge of government agencies and the industry sector most directly concerned with the proposal should always be sought. However, in many cases, substantive information about the environmental setting and effects will come from outside sources.
The different benefits provided for key groups by effective public participation are described in the table below. However, these benefits may not be always realised or acknowledged by participants. Each of the above groups may perceive the benefits gained from public involvement in the EIA process through the lens of their own experience and interests.
|The proponent||The decision-maker||Affected communities||Source: Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment (1999)|
|Raises the proponent’s awareness of the potential impacts of a proposal on the environment and the affected community||Achieves more informed and accountable decision making||Provides an opportunity to raise concerns and influence the decision-making process|
|Legitimises proposals and ensures greater acceptance and support||Provides increased assurance that all issues of legitimate concern have been addressed||Provides an opportunity to gain a better understanding and knowledge about the environmental impacts and risks that may arise|
|Improves public trust and confidence||Demonstrates fairness and transparency, avoiding accusations of decisions being made ‘behind closed doors’||Increases awareness of how decision-making processes work, who makes decisions and on what basis|
|Assists by obtaining local information/data||Promotes good relations with the proponent and third parties||Empowers people, providing the knowledge that they can influence decision making and creating a greater sense of social responsibility|
|Avoids potentially costly delays later in the process by resolving conflict early||Avoids potentially costly delays later in the process by resolving conflict early||Ensures all relevant issues and concerns are dealt with prior to the decision|