The potential role of environmental assessment in promoting sustainable development in Namibia
The use of Environmental Assessment (EA) as a planning tool has been promoted in Namibia in recent years and a broad-based, consultative process to develop an umbrella Environmental Management Act, is underway. Most EAs conducted since 1990 were for prospecting and mining, and many were post-facto assessments that led to the development of Environmental Management Plans. This dissertation examines the links between sustainable development and EA, both from a theoretical perspective and on the basis of case study analysis. The objective is to assess the potential role of EA in promoting sustainable development in an arid, natural resource dependent, developing country. An overview of Namibia's socio-economic and environmental circumstances, development needs and options, past and current planning systems and commonalties within the region, provided a contextual setting for the analysis. The role of EA is assessed through a review of the planning and implementation of sector policies, plans, programmes and projects. A national questionnaire survey of decision makers provided insight into their knowledge, perceptions and attitudes towards EA. Finally, the dissertation considers the trial implementation of "fast-track EA" in the small-scale mining sector. It remains difficult to ascribe the appropriate implementation of activities to the influence of EA. However, the dissertation shows that EAs enhanced the way development activities were planned and implemented, especially when applied at the strategic level. Even at the project level, EAs improved planning and implementation when introduced early in the process. The lessons learnt in Namibia confirm that public participation is crucial to the success of EA. EAs that disappointed were those where the process was dominated by a single stakeholder or where authorities either excluded or unduly influenced public participation. By helping to minimise negative impacts, EAs have reduced opportunity cost and have thus promoted sustainable development. The dissertation makes a number of key recommendations including the creation of broad-based administrative structures to implement EA, the diversified application of Strategic EA and the development of "fast track EA" to guide the increasingly important small and informal sectors of Namibia's economy.