An assessment of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) procedures and challenges faced by environmental officers in EIA implementation in Rwanda.
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Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is one of the most used tools for environmental management since its introduction in 1970s in the United States of America. Being a systematic process that examines the environmental consequences of development actions in advance, it is perceived as one of the tools which can help different nations to achieve sustainable development because of its capabilities to provide necessary information for decision-makers in order to balance economical, social and ecological paradigms of sustainable development in development projects. This research aims to assess the practice of the EIA processes in Rwanda and specifically seeks to identify the major challenges faced by environmental officers in this process. Given the nature of this research, policy review and desktop research methods have been used to study the current EIA procedures in Rwanda while a quantitative survey method was used to collect data and assess the practices of EIA process as well as the challenges faced by environmental officers in Rwanda. All environmental officers (8) who were dealing with EIA in Rwanda before the transfer of the EIA department to the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and all consultant companies which have been approved and which have at least done an EIA study in Rwanda (19) were targeted and received questionnaires via emails. All the environmental officers and 12 (63%) of the consultants responded to the questionnaire. The data was captured in the Software Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) template after being coded and has been analysed thematically. The policy review reveals that the current procedures are being developed given that the EIA process started in 2005. Like many developing countries, implementation remains a key challenge. Institutional arrangements remain to be finalised. In terms of the survey findings, even if EIA officers are more experienced than EIA consultants both have some skill gaps including using Geographical Information System (GIS) and remote sensing, understanding project management and customer care skills. Additionally, they receive very little training and capacity-building opportunities, although they desire these. The main challenges identified related to insufficient baseline data, funding, shortage of staff, lack of adequate resources, instilling environmental awareness among developers (developers perceive EIA as a barrier) and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) which is not conducted.
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