Environmental Impact Assessment
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Most developing nations have embarked on a path to rapid economic growth. This has meant soliciting for many development projects which are meant to bring rewards: in increased industrial productivity. The hope is that these projects will increase the incomes of the people and cut down on unemployment. However past experiences have shown that these major development projects created with the aim of producing enormous socio-economic benefits, have also produced adverse environmental impacts. Some of these impacts are irreversible and the damage to the environment has been total. So in order to minimize the unintended negative externalities of these projects on the environment, there has to be some means of identifying the impacts of projects before they are embarked upon so that any adverse effects which the projects may produce on: the environment can be rectified or an alternative method which docs not damage the environment is worked out:. Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is the technique used to identify the likely impacts of a development project on the environment. Ideally this activity of EIA should be carried out at the early planning stages of projects. When carried out effectively, it will help to identify the probable facets of environmental degradation which will be due to the development activities. This technique provides the decision-makers with an insight into the environmental implications of proposed development projects and their alternatives. It will provide the decision maker with information on the environmental, health, and socio-economic impacts of an intended development project. The implication is that this technique should be an integral part of development plans and is an important decision making tool for all projects if damage to the environment is to be avoided. This paper is meant to acquaint students with EIA as a decision making tool in development planning. It covers all aspects relating to EIA activities from the objectives and scope of EIA; EIA methods; institutional set-up ; and the Zimbabwe situation as far as this activity is concerned. The environment in this paper is taken to mean the set of conditions surrounding an individual or event. These conditions could be physical, biological or socioeconomic in nature. The paper focuses on the technique used to identify impacts of development projects on these various facets of the environment. Those in the planning profession, decision makers and project planners will find this paper useful.