Environmental Impact Assessments are now mandatory for virtually all projects in Kenya. Following is a review of the background, laws, procedures, tools and how to conduct EIAs in Kenya
The modern Understanding of environmental law and sustainable development dates back to 1972 in the UN Conference on Human Environment in Stockholm. In the meeting, nations from around the world came together and set out the first foundations of modern environmental law. They agreed that economic development should go hand in hand with environmental protection, and coined the term sustainable development to describe this new concept. The UN would later create the United Nations Environment Program in Nairobi to focus exclusively on environmental issues around the world. Subsequent multilateral agreements emerging from the Stockholm conference set the stage and foundational pillars for the development of international environmental laws.
From the Stockholm Conference, the concept of environmental sustainability found its way into Kenyan laws in 1999, with the formulation of the Environmental Management and Coordination Act (EMCA). The Act created the key institutions tasked with the management of environmental issues in the country. They include National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA), which was to exercise overall supervision and coordination of environmental issues in the country and The National Environment Council (NEC), in charge of policy formulation. Section 58 of EMCA provides for the carrying out of environmental impact assessment on projects in the Kenya. To support this process, NEMA came up with the Environmental Impact Assessment guidelines and administrative procedures, which set out the scope, process and how EIAs are to be conducted in the country .
Professionals in the environmental field in Kenya rely on a set of tools when conducting environmental impact assessments or handing similar issues. Some of these tools include Environmental Screening, Environmental Monitoring and Environmental Audits. Environmental Screening entails reviewing a project to establish if a full Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Report is required as per the law. Environmental Monitoring, on the other hand, is continuous process of evaluating the actual and potential impacts of a project to the environment, both in the short and long run. Environmental Auditing entails reviewing activities of an entity to establish if they are environmentally sound.
The process of conducting an EIA as per EMCA starts when the developer/investor shares the project proposal with NEMA, who screen it to see if it requires a full EIA report. If one is required, the impact assessment is then done by first, conducting a stakeholder analysis, followed by an environmental scoping. Research is then conducted on the environmental friendliness of the project and draft EIA report prepared. The lead expert reviews and shares the report with NEMA, who will then decide if the project should go ahead or stop due environmental concerns.