Is Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Necessary In Okavango Delta?

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Botswana has adopted Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Act in 2011. The Act notes that before any major development can be taken, there is need to conduct an EIA to determine potential impacts and suggest how mitigation measures can be planned and undertaken.

As a result, it has become law and practice that before any development such as establishment of a lodge, hotel, campsite, airstrip, or any other development that is considered to have an environmental impact in the Okavango Delta should undergo Environmental Impact Assessment. There are arguments for and against EIA implementation in Botswana. Those opposed to EIA argue that it is costly and delays development projects.

While this is the case, I would like to note that the implementation of EIA in the Okavango Delta and in Botswana is worldwide practice that has been ongoing for the last 40 years done to protect and conserve the environment from harm by human beings.

As such, the emergence of environmental impact assessment (EIA)as a key component of environmental management over the last 40 years has coincided with the increasing recognition of the nature, scale and implications of environmental change brought about by human actions. That is, EIA is being implemented at a time when it is more important than ever to scrutinize decisions that might have significant implications for people and communities, and the systems that comprise the natural environment, it is useful to take stock of the progress made in the field, and to reflect on current and future challenges.

EIA is a form of a comprehensive planning approach adopted by decision makers. The rationality has greatly influenced policy analysis on planning. It notes that techniques and entire methodologies are dependent upon assumptions that clear objectives could be defined to guide the development projects and policy, that the full costing of alternative strategies should be identified, that the alternative strategies should be implemented, and that detailed monitoring of selected strategies was possible.

Proponents of rational comprehensive planning thought that the more comprehensive the analyses of the problem were the better the plan would be. In this regard, rational comprehensive planning makes it to be perceived as a necessary rational tool to safeguard public interest and guide communities into the desired long-range future. To effect rational comprehensive planning, the proponents outlined a procedural framework of operation outlined them as follows:

Formulation of goals and objectives.

Generation and examination of all possible alternatives open to a decision maker for achieving the set goals and objectives.

The prediction of all consequences that would follow from adoption of each alternative.

The comparison of the consequences in relation to the agreed set of goals and objectives.

The selection of the alternative whose consequences correspond to a greater degree with the goals and objectives.

Implement the preferred alternative.

Monitor and evaluate outcomes and results.

Based on the above consideration, EIA remains a tool that we should use to predict and monitor environmental impacts of development projects. EIA has its own challenges but if we want to conserve and manage the Okavango Delta in a sustainable way so that our future generations find the wetland intact, we must allow the EIA process to take its course in all the planned and existing projects. In this regard, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is more than necessary for the Okavango Delta and Botswana as a whole.

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