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Conducting an Effective Environmental Assessment: Key Points to Remember
Environmental assessment is a critical aspect of an EMS, particularly at the urban level. There are many steps to be taken in implementing an assessment, and this infosheet lists out some of the key points to remember in conducting an environmental assessment.
- Keep environmental assessment in perspective. Recognise it as a tool to enhance the decision-making process, "not the decision making process itself"
- Keep the assessment simple and concentrate on pertinent factors and data. It should be "rigorous but not necessarily laborious". The type of assessment needed by community projects should be relatively quick and uncomplicated.
- Focus time and effort on the most relevant matters. The assessment of a latrine and sanitation project to be built near a river does not require an inventory of local flora and fauna. The priority would be to understand the impact of the project on the stream as well as on social and economic life.
- Don't invest too much, nor too little, time on an assessment. The process should be neither protracted nor hasty. It is better to take the time needed to do a proper job than to pay later for carelessness. Stay flexible throughout
- Tailor each assessment to the particular needs of the project. Each project has a unique set of environmental, economic and social characteristics. The values and priorities of the target population and the extent of their participation and support will also vary from project to project.
- Be inventive. There is no standard format available for interpreting the information gathered during an environmental assessment.
- Be prepared for inexact and suggestive data which call for speculation and extrapolation. "Typically data will be imperfect, and assumptions open to challenge. Quantification may be difficult (and in some circumstances, impossible). Nevertheless, lack of perfect information and insight should not stand in the way of conducting environmental assessment with the best available knowledge and data. Indeed, exposing the limits and inadequacies of knowledge, data and interpretation, can help stimulate improvements in the understanding of environmental issues and accelerate the provision of reliable information to support informed decision making".
- Avoid secrecy. Open communication among all stakeholders throughout the assessment process not only produces better results, but also increases the project's credibility and builds trust and acceptance on the part of the wider community.
- Seek external help and advice in situations which require more expertise than is available in the project management and environmental assessment teams.