Expanding the applicability of environmental assessment in the developing world context : a framework for inegrating HIV/AIDS into environmental impact assessment.
Since the 1970's, the increasing scale and complexity of development schemes has led to mounting public concerns about their environmental impacts. Environmental assessment and management developed out of a recognised need to protect the biophysical environment from overuse and degradation . Evidence suggests that the issues continue to become more complex and we need to equip ourselves to deal with them. The complexity of issues we face today demands a holistic and integrated management approach. This thesis highlights the weakness in the application of environmental impact assessment (EIA) to deal with current issues . The conceptualization of EIA within the ecological modernisation discourse has limited the use of the tool to adequately consider issues outside the biophysical environment. On the African continent, social issues such as HIV/AIDS are becoming more dominant than biophysical impacts. EIA must thus be re-framed to address concerns regarding the HIV/AIDS impact of development schemes. An alternative discourse of social justice is put forward as an approach that will take EIA closer to achieving sustainable development. The hypotheses put forward in the thesis were investigated through the use of both primary and secondary data sources. Extensive interviews and case studies formed the bulk of the data generated through the study. The results of the investigation showed that there are varying views on the purpose of EIA, that social issues continue to be underplayed in the process and that HIV/AIDS is considered a valid impact to be assessed in EIA. It must be noted that although HIV/AIDS is recognized as a common impact of development projects, particularly in Africa , the approach to dealing with the issue has been very different across EIAs and the issue is dealt with in an ad hoc manner. In order to expand the applicability of environmental assessment in Africa , a framework has been developed to integrate HIV/AIDS into the EIA process. The premise behind the framework is that HIV/AIDS can impact on the viability of a development scheme and conversely, development schemes can increase the transmission of HIV. The framework considers the social, economic and cultural drivers that create living and working environments, which promote the transmission of HIV. By applying the appropriate tools throughout the EIA process, one can identify potential impacts. Mitigation and management interventions can then be built into an HIV/AIDS component of the environmental management plan. This approach will allow environmental assessment practitioners; decision-makers and developers to better understand the critical issue of HIV/AIDS and ultimately contribute to managing the pandemic and further sustainable development in Africa.
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