The Journal of Transdisciplinary Environmental Studies' (TES)
Volume 3, Number 1, Dec. 2004
Jens Stærdahl, Assistant Professor and Henning Schroll, Professor
Department of Environment, Technology and Social Studies, Roskilde University Centre, Denmark;
Zuriati Zakaria, Professor and Maimon Abdullah, Associate Professor
University Kebangsaan, Malaysia;
Neil Dewar, Associate Professor
University of Cape Town, South Africa;
Noppaporn Panich, Associate Professor
Chulalongkorn University, Thailand.
Abstract: There are three objectives of our undertaking comparative analyses of EIA systems in Malaysia, South Africa, Thailand and Denmark, these are to inform policy makers with a view to improving Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) in the respective countries, extend knowledge of methodological procedures, and to increase international understanding of environmental issues. EIA procedures are intended to provide informed analyses of the potential environmental impacts of projects and to contribute toward the mitigation of the negative consequences of these. EIA originated in the USA in 1970 and has since spread throughout the world. Cross-national comparisons of EIA-systems are difficult for even if some procedures are entrenched in EIA legislation, the EIA administration and procedures are often grounded in institutionalised local practices that can differ significantly. In order to limit this problem, the research focuses on a common activity having environmental impacts in each of the national study areas, namely highway construction. The article describes and compares the EIA systems in the four countries across five different analytic themes: The background for adopting an EIA system, the relation to standard EIA procedure, the EIA system and surrounding environmental regulation, the form of public participation, and, finally, the scope in the analyses of environmental impacts. Important findings are that: the background for adopting an EIA system does not seem to influence the process effectiveness of the system in the long run; although the design of the EIA systems in the four countries differs, the only element in a standard EIA system that is not present in all the four countries is monitoring; EIA systems often succeed in integrating most of the diverse environmental regulations into the EIA process, but the coordination with land use planning systems is often problematic; although the international debate about EIA creates some pressure for incorporating genuine public participation in EIA systems, the form of participation in the four countries is very much dependent on the political system in each country, and, finally, that which environmental problems are considerer important differs between the countries.