The implications of public participation in environmental management and development
Many global problems in society relate to issues of environment and development. This research explores different connotations of environmental management and development. Development models for Third World countries are found to be most effective when they promote the participation of people in the communities they serve. The thesis demonstrates that development is a process through which members of society develop themselves and their institutions to enhance their ability to mobilize and manage resources to produce sustainable and distributed improvements in their life. The thesis shows that environmental impact assessment (EIA) is an environmental management instrument that allows people to participate in the management of large development proposals. My research demonstrates that the integration of public participation for environmental impact assessment makes the ETA process more meaningful and satisfactory for those who are most frequently affected by infrastructures and commercial enhancement. The thesis reviews European legislation which identifies major projects such as nuclear and fossil fuel power stations, coal mines, oil and gas projects, airports, tunnels, barrages, roads and manufacturing plants for compulsory EIA. The thesis identifies then public participation as a necessary requirement for these assessments. My work shows that the existence of NGOs and other community groups may guarantee more realistic representation than those circumstances where such groups are discouraged, prohibited or ill formed because of inadequate local leadership. My investigation indicates that grass-roots participatory movements, in which people are encouraged to take the initiatives to manage the environment, develop their expertise and capacity to survive in particular circumstances are numerous. In order to investigate EIA in a country well on the way to industrialisation I examined the environmental impact assessment of development projects incorporating public participation in Portugal. I found that public participation in EIA in Portugal is weak because of historical political constraints. Participation is integrated with environmental management and development in grass-roots sustainable development initiatives in Africa and Asia. I demonstrated that local/regional resource management and development is often promoted from the grass-roots by NGOs with diverse histories. Some relate to people in different communities who have come together with different degrees of participation according to their individual, family, social, economic, political and environmental concerns. They challenge their situations by making responsible decisions, planning, implementing and monitoring their objectives through processes of consultation, action and reflection. I further demonstrated that community objectives are achieved through involvement in each stage of the development process. If it is believed that human potentials are to be discovered and developed, then meaningful participation can realise this by people's active involvement at all level of society in decision making. I demonstrated that NG0s, historically, have been effective in this task by removing obstacles and educating communities to participate. suggested it is through the promotion of participation that EIA can exert its effectiveness.