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Decision making in the EIA process By Dr.

Rim-Rukeh Akpofure

The concept of decision-making Importance of decision- making in the EIA process An Overview of the EIA Process Identify Stages/Steps in EIA Process where decisions (Interim and Final) are taken. Case Studies Bibliography OBJECTIVES To describe the role and contribution of EIA in the decision-making process. RELEVANCE The EIA process was introduced with the express intention of incorporating environmental considerations into decision-making on major proposals. All of those involved in EIA require an understanding of how the decision-making process operates and the particular contribution made by EIA. The Concept of Decision Making Decision making can be regarded as the mental or cognitive processes resulting in the selection of a course of action among several alternatives. Every decision making process produces a final choice. The output can be an action or an opinion of choice. To make a decision the following must be considered: Objectives must first be established

Objectives must be classified and placed in order of importance Alternative actions must be developed The alternative must be evaluated against all the objectives The alternative that is able to achieve all the objectives is the tentative decision The tentative decision is evaluated for more possible consequences The decisive actions are taken, and additional actions are taken to prevent any adverse consequences from becoming problems and starting both systems (problem analysis and decision making) all over again

Importance of Decision - Making in the EIA process The EIA process was introduced with the express intention of incorporating environmental considerations into decision-making on major proposals. It is a policy management tool for both planners and decision-makers. EIA is an important tool in deciding about the final shape of a project. Not only does it help officials in making decisions about the project, it helps the project proponent achieve their aims more successfully EIA is an aid to decision-making. For the decision-maker to make any reasonable decision, alternative actions must be developed, and the alternative must be evaluated against all the objectives. The EIA process provides these alternatives upon which the decision maker utilizes. For example, the EIA process provides a framework for considering location and design issues and environmental issues upon which decisions are made. It can be an aid to the formulation of development actions, indicating areas where a project can be modified to minimize or eliminate altogether its adverse impacts on the environment. The consideration of environmental impacts early in the planning life of a development can lead to environmentally sensitive development; to improved relations between the developer, the planning authority and the local communities and to a smoother planning permission process. EIA can be the signal to the developer of

potential conflict; wise developers may use the process to negotiate green gain solutions, which may eliminate or offset negative environmental impacts, reduce local opposition and avoid costly public inquiries.

For example a local authority, it provides a systematic examination of the environmental implications of a proposed action (project), and sometimes alternatives, before a decision is taken. EIA is not a substitute for decision-making, but it help to clarify some of the trade offs

associated with a proposed development action, which should lead to more rational and structured decision-making.

An Overview of the EIA Process The basic steps in the EIA processes are as depicted in Figure 1.0: Project Proposal Screening

EIA Required Scoping

Initial EE

No EIA Required Public Participation


Impact Analysis

Mitigation & EMP


Public Participation


Not Approved




Fig 1.0: Simplified EIA Process

Project screening: Determines whether or not an EIA is necessary. The number of projects that could be subject to EIA is potentially very large. Yet many projects may not have

substantial or significant environment impact. A screening mechanism seeks to focus on those projects with potentially significant adverse environmental impacts or whose impacts are not fully known. Those with few or no impacts are screened out and allowed to proceed to the normal planning permission and administrative processes without any additional assessment. Screening is carried out by the regulatory agencies usually after a site visit. This is initiated by the project proponent submitting the Terms of Reference (TOR) to the regulator. Upon receipt of the TOR, the regulators carrys out a site (project location) verification exercise and a detail review of the TOR. At the end of the screening exercise, one of the following three decisions is possible. (a) The project is not likely to cause significant adverse environment effects, or such effects

can be mitigated. The project is therefore permitted and the project classified as category 1 and to undergo only technical review. (b) The project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects; or there is public

concern on the environmental effects of the project. The project is therefore permitted and classified as category II and to undergo mandatory (full) scale EIA process. (c) The anticipated adverse environmental effects are considered to be significant and

cannot be mitigated. The development application is refused.

Project scooping: This seeks to identify at an early stage, from all of a projects possible impacts and from all the alternatives that could be addressed, those that are the crucial, significant issues, scoping is generally carried out in discussions between the developer, the regulators and ideally the public. It is often the first stage of negotiation and consultation between a developer and other interested parties. Scoping begin with the identification of individuals, communities, local authorities and statutory consultees likely be affected by the project.

In Nigeria, this aspect of EIA process is called public forum, where regulators, communities (likely to be impacted), local authorities and Community Based Organizations (CBOs), Community Development Association (CDAs) and non-government organizations (NGOs) are invited by the developer. Here, the developer presents the technical details and environmental implication of project for public scrutiny.

Establishing Environmental Baseline: Environmental baseline data study includes land, water, noise, air, human beings, historical sites among others. This aspect of the EIA process is executed by a team of multi-disciplinary experts that are usually external consultants to the developer. The size of the team may vary from two to twelve and even larger. For some projects, the average is three or four. However, a team of 17 relevant specialist types has been recommended and this should include among others, medical personnel, ecologist; process / mechanical engineer, chemists, archaeologist and soil scientist. A team should cover the main issues involved. Baseline studies should involve the biophysical and socio-economic environments (see Table 1.0). Table 1.0: Information describing the site and its environment 1. 2. Population proximity and numbers. Flora and Fauna (including both habitats and species) in particular, protected species and their habitats. 3. Soil, agricultural quality, land-use pattern, geology and geomorphology. 4. Water; aquifers, water courses and shoreline, including the type, quantity, composition and strength of any existing discharges. 5. Air, climatic factors, air quality. 6. Landscape and topography. 7. Architectural and historic heritage, archaeological sites and features and other material assets. 8. Recreational uses. 9. Socio-economic variables such as employment, nutritional status, educational facilities, health institutions, etc. _______________________________________________________

Identification of Impacts: Impact identification brings together project characteristics and baseline environmental characteristics with the aim of ensuring that all potentially significant environmental impacts (adverse or favourable) are identified and taken into account in the EIA

process. A wide range of methods has been developed and the methods are divided into the following categories: (a) (b) (c) (d) (e) checklists matrices quantitative methods networks overlay maps.

When choosing a method, the following salient issues should be considered: * * to ensure compliance with regulations; to provide a comprehensive coverage of a full range of impacts including social, economic, and physical; * to distinguish between positive and negative, large and small, long-term and short-term, reversible and irreversible impacts; * * * * * * * * to identify secondary, indirect and cumulative impacts as well as direct impacts; to distinguish between significant and insignificant impacts; to allow a comparison of alternative development proposals. to consider carrying within the constraint of an areas carrying capacity. to incorporate qualitative as well as quantitative information; to be easy and economical to use; to be unbiased and to give consistent results; to be of use in summarizing and presenting impacts in the EIS (Environmental Impact Statement).

Prediction of Impacts The object of prediction is to identify the magnitude and other dimensions of identified change in the environment with a project or action in comparison with the situation without that project or action. Prediction involves the identification of potentials change in indicators of such environment receptors. Table 2.0 provides a view of the scope of the environment and the environmental receptors that may be affected by a project. Table 3.0 shows that prediction should also identify direct and impact impacts, the geographical extent of impacts (e.g local; regional, national), whether the impacts are beneficial or adverse and the duration of the

impacts. The reversibility or otherwise of impacts, their permanency, and their cumulative and synergistic impacts should also be predicted. Another important distinction associated with prediction of impacts is that magnitude (ie. Size) and the significance (ie. The importance for decision-making) of the impacts. Magnitude does not always equate with significance. For example, a large increase in one pollutant may still result in an outcome within generally accepted standards, whereas a small increase in another may take it above the applicable standards (Fig. 2.0).

Table 2.0: Environmental Receptors Physical Environment Air and atmosphere Water resources and bodies Soil and geology Flora and Fauna Human beings Landscape Cultural heritage Socio-economic Indicators air quality water Water quality and quantity Classification, risks (e.g. erosion, contamination). Birds, mammals, vegetation Physical and mental health and well being Characteristics and quality of landscape Conservation areas; historic and archaeological sites. Direct employment, labour, market characteristics; services employment. Population structure and trends. Supply and demand Health, education etc lifestyles, social problems, quality of life, community conflict

Demography Housing Local services Socio-cultural

Table 3.0: Types of Impact * * * * * * * * * * Physical and socio-economic Direct and indirect Short-run and long-run Local and strategic Adverse and beneficial Reversible and irreversible Quantitative and qualitative Distribution by group and / or area actual and perceived relative to other development.


Medium Significance Low Significance

High Significance Medium Significance

Importance/sensitivity Fig. 2.0: Significance expressed as a function of impact magnitude and the importance/sensitivity of the resources receptors. Another dimension is the unit of measurement, and the distinction between quantitative and qualitative impacts. Some indicators are more readily quantifiable than others (e.g. a change in the quality of drinking water, in comparison for example, with changes in community stress associated with a project). Predictions should be present impacts in explicit units for the purpose of evaluation. Quantification can allow predicted impacts to be assessed against local, national and international standards. Predictions should also include estimates of the probability that an impact will occur, which raises the important issue of uncertainty. There are many possible methods to predict impacts. A study carried out in the early 1980s identified 150 possible prediction methods used in just 140 EIA studies from the Netherlands and North America. None provides a magic solution to the prediction problem. All methods are partial in their coverage of impacts, but some seek to be more holistic than others.

Six types of predicting models have been identified. They are; mechanistic method, mass balance method, statistical method, physical, image or architectural method, field and laboratory experimental methods and analogue method. When choosing prediction methods, an assessor should be concerned about their appropriateness for the task involved, in the context of the resources available. Evaluation: Once impacts have been predicted, there is a need to assess their relative significance. Criteria for significance include the magnitude and likelihood of the impact and its spatial and temporal extent, the likely degree of the affected environments recovery, the value of the affected environment, the level of public concern and political repercussions. Evaluation methods are many and varied. They range from simple or complex, formal or

informal, quantitative or qualitative, aggregated or disaggregated method. An example of the formal evaluation method is the comparison of likely impacts against legal requirements and standards (e.g. air quality standards, building regulation). Other methods of evaluation are; cost-benefit analysis technique; monetary valuation technique, scoring and weighting and multicriteria methods. Mitigation: Mitigation is defined as measured envisaged in order to avoid, reduce, and it possible remedy significant adverse effects. Mitigation is not limited to one point in the assessment. Although it may follow logically from the prediction and assessment of the relative significance of impacts, it is in fact inherent in all aspects of the process. Mitigation measures proposed for a particular action should be such that it is practicable and realistic.

Public consultation and participation: One of the aims of the EIA process is to provide information about a proposal likely environmental impact to the developer, public and decisionmakers, so that a better decision may be made. Consultation with the public and statutory consultees in the EIA process can help to ensure the quality, comprehensiveness and effectiveness of the EIA as well as to ensure that the various groups views are adequately taken into consideration in the decision-making process. Although EIA process may vary from country to country, it is an integral part of any EIA process worldwide. To ensure that public involvement achieves the aims set out, several criteria for effective public participation and consultation has been identified: (i) Identification of the groups/ individuals interested in or affected by the proposed

development. This can be classified into two groups. The first consists of pressure groups; NGOs, CBOs, and CDAs. The second group consists of the people living near the proposed project who may be directly affected by it. (ii) Information flow must be two-ways. It must establish a dialogue between the public and

decision-makers (both the project proponent and the authorizing body) and to ensure that decision-making assimilate the publics view into their decision. (iii) (iv) It must cater for different levels of technical sophistication and for special interests. Provision of pertinent and timely information by the developer.

(v) (vi)

An appropriate tool method of public participation and consultation should be used. Community members, general public as well as local authorities must have access to the

decision process.

Review of the EIA Reports: The comprehensiveness and accuracy of EIA reports are matters of concern. Many EIA reports in Nigeria for example do not meet even the minimum regulatory requirements, much less provide adequate information on which to base decisions. In Nigeria, the Federal Ministry of Environment review EIA reports and act as a quality assurance process. However the FMEMV do not have the full range of technical expertise needed to assess the adequacy and comprehensiveness of an EIA report. To this end,

consultants (usually experienced academicians) are brought into review the EIA report. Effective review criteria include amongst others. * * * * * * ensure that all relevant information has been analyzed and presented. assess the validity and accuracy of information contained in the report. consider whether additional information is needed. assess the significance of the projects environmental effects. evaluate the need for mitigation and monitoring of environmental impacts, and advise on whether a project should be allowed to proceed.

Decisions on project In Nigeria, decisions to authorize projects are made by the Honourable Minister of FMEMV. When making a decision, the authority is required to have regard to all the environmental information ie., the information contained in the EIA report and any comment made by the external reviewers and representations from members of the public as well as other material considerations. By any standards, making decisions on development projects is a complex undertaking. Weighing up the information to reach a decision involves not only considering the views of different interest groups and the importance of the environmental issues, but also determining whether the proposed project is in accordance with the countrys development plan.

Monitoring after the decision Monitoring involves the measuring and recording of physical, social and economic variables associated with development impacts (e.g. traffic flows, air quality, noise, employment). The activity seeks to provide information on the characteristics and functioning of variables in time

and space, and in particular on the occurrence and magnitude of impacts. Monitoring can improve project management. It can be used, for example as an early warning system to identify harmful trends in a locality before it is too late to take remedial actions. It can help to identify and correct unanticipated impacts. Monitoring can also provide an accepted data base, which can be useful in mediation between interested parties. Monitoring is also essential for successful environmental impact auditing, and can be one of the most effective guarantees of commitment to undertakings and to mitigation measures. The aim of monitoring is to help ensure that mitigation measures are implemented in a timely manner in accordance with the terms of the project approval. Monitoring refers to the observation and oversight of mitigation activities at a project site. If monitoring reveals that mitigation measures are ignored or are not completed, sanctions could be imposed; these can include for example, stop-work orders, fines and restitution. The components of a monitoring programme would normally include the following: * * * * * a summary of the significant impacts identified in the EIA report. the mitigation measures recommended for each significant measures. the agency responsible for the monitoring of the mitigation measure. the timing and / or frequency of the monitoring. the reporting requirements.

Decision-Making in the EIA Process EIA is part of a larger process of decision-making to approve a major proposal. Decision making is the process of choosing between alternatives courses of action. The process is essentially political in nature that is based on information from a number of different sources and involves making a large number of trade-offs. A balance must be struck between the benefits and costs; their environmental, economic and social elements must be weighed, and uncertainties and arguments over the significance of risks and impacts must be addressed. Decision making involves weighing the benefits and costs and making trade-offs among a range of considerations. In the context of EIA, it is a process of information gathering which is intended to facilitate environmentally sound decision-making. The process culminates in a final decision on whether or not a proposal is acceptable and under what conditions. When the term decision making is used in EIA, it is usually taken to mean final approval of a proposal.

However, a series of interim decisions about the proposal are made throughout the EIA process (see Figure 3.0).

Information from Scoping

Env. Baseline Data Gathering

Public involvement

Information from different sources

EIA Report


Other Inputs e.g benefits-cost analysis involvement

Information from Screening

Fig. 2.0: Decision making in the EIA process.

Interim Decision: A series of decisions are made throughout the EIA process. Examples of such stages where interim decisions are made include:

(a) Categorisation of Project: At the end of the screening exercise, one of the following three decisions is possible. (i)The project is not likely to cause significant adverse environment effects, or such effects can be mitigated. The project is therefore permitted and the project classified as category 1 and to undergo only technical review. (ii)The project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects; or there is public concern on the environmental effects of the project. The project is therefore permitted and classified as category II and to undergo mandatory (full) scale EIA process. (iii) The anticipated

adverse environmental effects are considered to be significant and cannot be mitigated. The development application is refused. (b) Project Options: Here decisions are taken based on possible options available. Guiding such decisions are technical, environmental and cost-benefits information. (c) Public Forum: if the proposed project is categorized as one, which causes significant environmental impact, (mandatory project) the project proponent (assisted by a consulting firm) organizes a public forum as part of the scooping process. The objective of the public forum is to inform the community people about the planned development and its likely ecological, socioeconomic and cultural impacts. The approach is to invite the members of community development committee (CDC), youth leaders, women leaders, and members of the traditional council of the identified communities that are likely to be affected by the proposed project to a town hall (usually located at the local government headquarters). As this stage, decisions/ inputs from the public are carried on board. (d) Gathering of Ecological and Socio-economic Baseline Data: Another stage in the EIA process where interim decisions are taken and documented is during the gathering of ecological and socio-economic baseline conditions data of the project area. This is carried out through the use of experimental methods and questionnaires. At this stage, local people take part in the study by providing information through questionnaires administered to them by the consulting firm. (e) Public Display of the draft EIA report: Another stage of inputs/decisions into the EIA process is at the public display of the draft EIA report. The FMENV displays the draft EIA report submitted to it by the proponent at appropriate locations where the interested public will have access to it for at least 21 working days. Information in different media (newspapers and radio announcement) is made to notify the public of the display centers. Comments, inputs and complaints are also expected to be forwarded to the FMENV within the stipulated period of

display. At the expiration of the display period, the FMENV constitutes a panel of experts, to review the draft EIA report at a public sitting. Members of the public are expected to make useful contributions to making the document acceptable. (f) Panel Review Meeting: Here members of the panel set up by Honourable Minister of Environment to review the EIA report submit their contributions to improve the report.

Final Decision: The information provided by EIA is based on technical analysis and public involvement. It is a synthesis of facts and values. How these components are reconciled and documented in the EIA report can have an important bearing on the potential contribution it makes to decision-making. The usefulness of the EIA report for decision-making also depends upon the use of good practice at previous stages in the EIA process. The Final decision maker in the EIA process in Nigeria is the Honourable Minister in charge of the Federal Ministry of Environment. At a minimum, decision maker is expected to understand: y y y y The basic concepts and purpose of EIA. EIA requirements, principles and guidelines that is applicable. The effectiveness of their implementation and the implication for decision making. Limitations that may need to be placed on information and advice contained in the EIA report. y y How EIA process and public measure up to internationally acceptable standards. Issues associated with public consultation decision making including third party and legal challenges to the authorisation of proposals to EIA. When making decisions, those responsible seldom have time to read the EIA report, other than an executive summary. Typically, they rely upon the advice of their officials, whose views are likely to be shaped by their policy mandates and responsibilities. The general receptivity of decision-makers to the findings of an EIA report will reflect their confidence in the EIA process and its perceived acceptance by other parties. In this regard, public trust in the EIA process, which is built up over time, may carry particular weight. The factors that will be important in the final approval of a proposal include:

y y y

findings of significant impact contained in the EIA report; inputs from interim stages; and other external pressures or political inputs to decision-making. A summary of Information considered important for decision-makers is given in the Table 3.0 below. It lists the key aspects of EIA reports which decision-makers need to take into account when making final approvals and setting conditions for project implementation. This listing is generic and should be reviewed to establish the aspects that are important locally. Table 3.0: Information Considered Important for Decision Makers Decision Making Stage Background Policy Context Important Information Project background and the most important environmental issues involved Basic development issue or problem being addressed (e.g. flooding, water shortage, etc); The relationship to environmental policies and plans Alternatives to the proposal (including the best practicable environmental option (BPEO) or equivalent designation) Key public views ; Concerns of affected communities ; Areas of agreement and disagreement Costs and benefits Distribution of gains and losses Adequacy of proposal measures main economic benefits, significant environmental effects and proposed mitigation measures The extent to which the proposal conforms to the principles of sustainable development Design and operational changes to improve the environmental acceptability of the project


Public involvement

Impact analysis Mitigation and monitoring Conclusion and recommendations

Checks and Balances in Decision- Making: A number of checks and balances are built into EIA processes to help ensure accountability and transparency. Such checks and balances include: y y No decision will be taken until the EIA report has been reviewed and considered. The findings of the EIA report and review are major determinant of approval and condition settings. y Public comment on the EIA report is taken into account in decision making.

Approvals can be refused or withheld, conditions imposed or modifications demanded at the final decision stage.

y y y

The decision is made by the FMENV other than the proponent. Reasons for the decision and conditions attached to it are published. There is a public right of appeal against the decision (where procedures have not been followed or they have applied unfairly).

Range of Possible Outcomes Arising from Decision Making: There can be a number of different outcomes from decision making: y y y y y The proposal can be approved. The proposal can be approved with conditions. The proposal can be placed on hold pending further investigations. The proposal can be returned for revision and re-submission. The proposal can be rejected outright.

Improving the Possible Action of Decision Maker. The sustainable objective of EIA places a lot of task on the decision maker and hence it is important that the decision maker should be encouraged to: y Implement the sustainability commitments made at various International Environmental Fora. y y y Broaden their perspective of the environment and its values. Better communicate information and reasons for decisions. Apply the precautionary principle when addressing the environmental impacts of development proposals. y Look for improved ways of making trade-offs among environmental, economic and social factors. y y Adopt more open and participatory approaches. Use strategic tools to aid decision making including SEA for proposed policies and plans and environmental accounting to gain a realistic measure of macro-economic progress.

Local Case Studies Case study 1: Exploratory Drilling of an Oil Well (Ekedei Deep A) In 2001, the proponent commissioned a seismic company to carry out seismic exploratory of Amatolo/Ekedei area located in Yenagoa Local Government Area of Bayelsa State. The result confirmed the presence of large quantity of hydrocarbon in the deeper structure of Ekedei area. Consequently, the proponent planned to drill an exploratory well (Ekedei-Deep A) in the area. Major project activities include amongst others; the dredging of a 1.7km canal from the Sangana River to the drilling slot and the movement of a swamp drilling rig to the drilling slot and other associated drilling activities. In 2003, the project proponent began the EIA process for the exploratory drilling of EkedeiDeep A by the submission of the Terms of Reference (TOR) to the regulatory agency (FMENV). The project proponent did what was required of them by legislation: organization of public forum for public participation, ecological and socio-economic baseline data gathering and panel review meeting. We then analyse the decision- making of the project taken within the framework of regulatory activities, public participation, conflict resolution, protection of natural resources and improved planning in the EIA process. First, at the end of the screening exercise, the following decision was taken by the regulatory Ministry: The project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects and or there is public concern on the environmental effects of the project. The project is therefore permitted and classified as category II and to undergo mandatory (full) scale EIA process. Secondly, let us consider the criterion of public participation. The project proponent organized a public forum with the objective of informing the community people (those that will be directly affected by the project activities), regulatory agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), community based organizations (CBOs) and community development associations

(CDAs) about the planned development. At the end of the public forum, community leaders expressed their happiness and promised the project owner of a cordial working environment. However, the people felt that they were left in the dark about major programme decisions such as; the schedule, technology and project design. The proponent were informed of the possibility of accessing the drilling slot through an existing and abandoned road without the proposed construction of the 1.7km canal by dredging from Sagana River to the drilling slot. Considering the environmental problems such as, salt water intrusion, loss of vegetation, erosion, disruption of fishing activity increased turbidity, flooding and alteration of the aquatic ecosystem. The alternative involves the reconstruction of an existing but abandoned road that leads directly to drilling slot was generally accepted. This is an example of interim decision. The proponent agreed that engaging their stakeholders in a mutual, cooperative problem solving process promoted project acceptability. Without public acceptance, proponents may not have accomplished its mission on schedule. Project acceptability results in a better planning process and a better decision.

A compelling characteristic of the project exploratory drilling of Ekedei Deep A is the general acceptability the project received from the community people. Eventually a final decision was given to project an approval without any conditions.

Case study 2: Construction of an 8-inch 38km crude oil pipeline project. It is estimated that the Samabri-Beseni basin holds up to a large quality of crude oil (actual amount of crude oil not disclosed) concentrated in the Samabri-Beseni Field. The field is located in Samabri/Beseni communities in Yenagoa Local Government Area of Bayelsa State. In the development of the oil field, the proponent had drilled a number of clusters of production wells and had proposed to construct an 8-inch 38km crude oil pipeline to transport crude petroleum to the nearest crude oil gathering facility.

In 2004, the proponent submitted a Terms of Reference (TOR) to the regulatory agency (FMENV) seeking for approval to commence the EIA process. The proposed pipeline is planned to be a completely and continuously welded forming a continuous of carbon steel (diameter 8 inch) with a polythene coating for corrosion protection. The pipeline was planned to be lowered into a 0.9-1.1m deep trench and later back filled. Project activities also involve the clearing of vegetation along the acquired right of way (ROW) which is 30-50m wide. A fibre optic communication and sensing cable has also been buried in the pipeline trench for enhancement of leak detection capabilities. As a first step in the EIA process, the regulatory agency carried out a site verification exercise of the project area. Thereafter, the project was categorised as a project that will undergo full and mandatory EIA process (Category A). The proposed pipeline ROW is planned to traverse a thick forest reserve and a seasonal lake (Abuo Lake). At the end of the EIA process, an approval was given for the commencement of the project with a major modification (a change of the pipeline ROW), to avoid the thick forest reserve and a reduction in the number of river crossing. What went right? A well-conducted EIA resulted to the projects success. The projects success has been attributed to early, substantitive and continuous public involvement during all phases of the EIA process and project implementation. First, the project proponent, and regulatory agencies strove for democratic public involvement. The proponent organized a well-coordinated public forum where all stakeholders (community people, regulatory agencies, members of various community organizations) were in attendance. Critical issues such as project design, project schedule, health, safety and environment (HSE) issues and employment opportunities were openly discussed and generally acceptable decisions were taken. In addition, the proponent maintained continual community involvement especially at all levels of project implementation. A database was created with the names and addresses of

key community informants so that the proponent could communicate with each of the identified key informants in the area. The proponent established a public affairs committee in the community. Weekly meetings were held to bring stakeholders concerns to the attention of the proponent and to disseminate information from the proponent to the community people. Community people remarked that the proponent was actually listening to our suggestions. Second, the proponent took a proactive approach to conflict resolution. Through extensive public involvement activities the proponent sought to identify, address and resolve conflicts rather than ignore them. For example, families that own Abuo Lake were identified and all contentions issues resolved amicably. As a notable testament to conflict resolution, there were no communal clashes, family conflict, and lawsuits. Third, the proponent and the stakeholders took proactive decisions that protected natural resources such as the thick forest area and Abuo Lake. Suggestions and selection of mitigation measures was not made in isolation of the community concerns. Public opinions were elicited early enough to be part of project planning, alternatives analysis and evaluation. An Impact Mitigation Monitoring (IMM) was carried out to ensure that the suggested mitigation measures were implemented ruing project execution. Fourth, the EIA process especially public forum, panel review meeting and ecological and socio-economic baseline data gathering helped the planning process. The proponent made spirited effort to maintain open and honest community people input was key to the evaluation of alternatives. In turn, the people were supportive of the proponents mitigation measures. The review process acknowledged an EIA report that was clearly and appropriately documented. The final decision was an approval without conditions.

TAKING DECISION-MAKING PROCESS IN EIA TO THE NEXT LEVEL One important principle for effective decision making in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process is the principle of transparency. Transparency requires that all factors relevant to assessment of decisions are clearly identified by the decision-maker. A transparent process provides certainty in the EIA process through ensuring all obligations, opportunities and decisions in the procedure are clearly set out. It also partially provides accountability to participants and stakeholders, and makes the EIA decision-makers accountable. The integrity of an EIA system, rest squarely on the fact that all participants have faith in the outcomes, of the process and this can be achieved in part through having an open, transparent system with clearly defined objectives and processes and realistic opportunities for participation by all stakeholders.

The way in which decisions are reached in EIA and the manner of their communication are two factors that contribute to the effectiveness of a particular process. EIA is considered to be effective when environmental impacts are accounted for by project decision-makers in the course of planning, and hence some weight is given to environmental factors during project decision-making. To take decision making in the EIA process in Nigeria to the next level requires a detailed examination of the present practices and procedures gap analysis and suggestions offered. 1. During project screening, decisions taken by the regulatory agency is based on the information submitted by the project proponent as per the terms of reference (TOR). It has been observed over the years that proponents are always economical with information regarding the project scope and details and hence regulatory agency categorise most project to undergo only technical review. The interim decision taken in such cases are not correct. 2. During project scoping especially at the formal presentation of the proposal before community (open forum), presentation is too technical for the community people to understand and hence find it difficult to draw a nexus between project activities and the likely environmental impact. What transpire in most cases is monologue and not dialogue. It is not participative.

3. At the stage of gathering environmental baseline data, the decision on the actual number of samples to be collect from the various environmental media is taken by the proponent which in most cases does not reflect on the size of the likely impacted area. Again, the application of socio-economic questionnaire to gather socio-economic data does not reflect the actual (real) situation and hence interim decision taken at this stage may not be correct.

4. It has been noted that decision-making requires striking a balance between economic,

environmental, social and other criteria. Thus it is a political process involving trade-offs rather than a purely scientific undertaking. At the final decision stage, trade-off process takes place largely behind closed doors, in practice, only a generalised understanding of how decisions are actually reached in such cases is evident to the public There is room for improvement in EIA process, and it can be achieved through having open communication processes or transparency in how decisions are reached. 1. Project proponent should be candid, truthful, and more open about detail project activities. 2. Public forum should be organised to make more participatory. 3. At the screening stage, a standardised filtering table with check boxes should be developed to identify topics that apply to the proposal, and the level of assessment is subsequently determined by the regulatory agency. 4. During scoping, another checklist should be developed to establish the key environmental factors to be addressed by the proponent for each of the screening topics. This is a generic check sheet which links environmental factors with environmental objectives established by the regulatory agency. Stating the environmental objectives that apply to a particular proposal during the scoping stage is a serious attempt to make the goals of EIA clear and provides a structure for what follows. Ultimately it leads to a more transparent way of reaching the conclusion that a particular proposal is environmentally acceptable, on the grounds that it is able to meet the regulatory objectives for individual environmental factors.

Conclusion and Recommendations It is mandatory that, country such Nigeria that has diverse biological characteristics protect and develop its environmental values. The enactment of the EIA Act No. 86 of 1992 and the development of the EIA procedural guidelines is an important tool for the protection of the precious environment. A well-coordinated EIA for developmental projects are a sure path to sustainable development. Even though Nigeria has been implementing the EIA Act No. 86 of 1992 for the past fifteen years there are still some aspects that need improvement and development and one of such aspect is the decision making process. Once these aspects are improved they will be more applicable to sustainable development of project execution.

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