Community Based Environmental Impact Assessment as a Tool for Transformative Learning and Environmental Awareness at Community Level
Whereas conventional EIA rarely promotes community participation and requires extensive data, sophisticated technologies and experts, community EA emphasizes on local knowledge, values and employs a participatory approach. Proponents of conventional EIA play a larger role in providing solutions to the perceived impacts but the community EA gives local communities an opportunity to provide solutions to their local problems. Such interactive assessments foster learning, enhances environmental awareness, and, increases chances of sustainability of these projects at community level. This paper presents the findings of an evaluation of social and environmental impacts of Kisayani community water project in eastern Kenya. The project is a unique experience in Kenya, being the first community water project implemented under the Kenya Environmental Act 1999, and, having had to undergo a community based EIA. Questionnaires were administered to randomly selected households focused group discussions were held, and informal interviews conducted with the community members, project management committee, relevant stakeholders and project proponents. This paper discusses the lessons learnt by the community through participation in the EIA of their water project where it was found that, due to participation in the EIA, there was 40% improvement in terms of environmental awareness and knowledge. Besides, a high number of respondents (87%) attached high value to Kibwezi forest as source water, rainfall and habitat of biodiversity compared with only 47% of the respondents who held this view before the project assessment. Community based environmental assessment comes out as an important tool in changing community views regarding the environment and, promotes a sense of ownership of the natural resources among the community. It is therefore recommended that future EIA to mainstream community participation.
Keywords: Community Impact Assessment, Learning, Environmental Awareness, EIA
Harrison Ikunga Rware
Student, University of Nairobi