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The role of well funded Environmental Impact Assessment regulatory Reform in the context of a devolved government system in Kenya

The general goal of EIA regulatory framework is not only to predict the impacts of any development project or policy on the environment and society but also to promote consultative and participatory processes where decisions on alternatives and implementation strategies are shared equitably. Public participation in EIA presents a bottom-up approach to the environmental management where the concerns, interests and needs of the affected individuals and groups of individuals are given an opportunity to have an input in the decision-making process. But, considering that environmental impacts are externalities that can have far-reaching consequences to the general public, public participation depending on context should also involve the general public. Knowing the budget constraints that go with EIA both from the government side as a monitoring institution as well as the proponents, this presents a major threat to the Kenyan environmental conservation and development efforts. Stemming from the agency principle, the public need to feel that their respective government is pursuing the interest through the existing regulations and allowing regulations that allow for public participation are considered a measure good governance. As Kenya is working on strengthening the county governments, the policy makers need to realize that budget allocation for EIA and mutual partnerships with monitoring agencies as well as the proponents should be on top of the agenda for the counties as well at the national government level. This is because well-implemented public participation approaches can allow the public to take control of environmental decisions and gain more confidence in taking up development agendas. From a policy perspective, public participation in EIA can enhance the policy and regulatory outcomes to create fair solutions to environmental, economic, social and cultural challenges faced during environmental assessment process for a more sustainable development. In addition, public participation can be an effective tool for promoting good governance, legitimizing decisions, building public trust in both the government and investors as well as promoting active citizenship and innovation. These are key elements to the success of a devolved governance system.

 

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Eco-entrepreneur and a Project Manager in Auckland, New Zealand.

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