I’m really glad to see the latest issue of World Rivers Review devoted largely to what’s wrong with Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). See:
A lot of what the Review – the newsletter of the international NGO International Rivers – discusses in an international and mostly dam/reservoir context is much like what I’ve railed about domestically but with reference to all kinds of projects for the last several years, particularly in Unprotected Heritage (Left Coast Press 2009):
• Highly technical analyses that dodge the big issues;
• Impermeability to the public;
• Failure to consider broad community/cultural concerns (in the US, substituting a narrow focus on compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act);
• EIA performed by servants of development interests, who can be fired if they don’t whitewash a project’s impacts;
• And more.
I hope International Rivers keeps up the campaign, and that more groups joint suit.
Friends in the upper echelons of the mainstream EIA community express fear of acknowledging the problems with EIA, thinking that if we do we may “lose it all.” I don’t buy it. We’ll lose it all if we let the system continue to erode.
Smart reforms – that create an honest EIA regime that’s simpler and more accountable than the present one – ARE possible if we put our minds to it, and might even find broad political support if carefully designed.