The role of environmental education in the promotion of community participation in environmental impact assessment process in Lusaka district

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Sankando, Memory
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The University of Zambia
Community participation is acknowledged as a precondition for genuine realization of all other human rights. This is the reason why it is one of the core strategies in the National Policy on Environment (NPE). The policy states that all Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) processes must be made public so as to encourage participation of the affected and, would be affected citizens as well as the biophysical phenomena. Despite this directive from the policy, participation by communities is still lacking. Thus this study sought to explore the role that Environmental Education (EE) could play to promote community participation in the EIA process. The EE context of this study was derived from the NPE 2007 whose strategy states that, individuals should have the necessary knowledge on the environment and this is what EE is all about. The objectives of the study were to: i) establish the indicators for community participation in Environmental Impact Assessment ii) investigate possible factors that may hinder community participation in EIA; iii) examine the method used to select participants in Environmental Impact Assessments; and iv) establish the role EE could play to promote community participation in EIA process. The study used a descriptive survey research design with both qualitative and quantitative approaches which were used to get the truth, through direct reflection and dialogue with participants. The study further employed a non-probability sampling method, which is expert purposive sampling and homogeneous purposive sampling method. Expert purposive sampling was used to come up with a sample of 5 experts and homogenous sampling to come up with 90 respondents from the general public of Lusaka district. The information was collected through the use of semi-structured interviews, and the Arnstein Ladder of Participation. Through the Arnstein Ladder of Participation it was found out that communities were only consulted during consultation meetings held by the project proponents which is an indication for low level of participation. The results also showed that there was lack of awareness of the EIA concerns due to less or no education. Therefore, lack of education was stated to be the possible factor that could hinder community participation in the EIA process. The result further indicated that 90% of respondents did not participate in EIA process due to lack of awareness, and that the methods used to involve people, was a method that only targeted people that were available and near the proposed projects. Thus, it was established that this method was failing to bring about a good and well balanced representation of community in the EIAs, as most people were not knowledgeable of EIA. It was further established that EE could play a role of increasing people's knowledge and awareness about the environment and its associated challenges so as to develop the necessary skills and expertise to address them. The conclusions made by the study were that, it is important for communities to participate in EIA, because their effort to define problems and incorporate local initiative and ideas in the design and implementation is a prerequisite to EIAs. Therefore, the success and sustainability of projects depend upon local understanding, approval and participation in all aspects of the project. It was thus recommended that Environmental Education should play a role of increasing people’s understanding and participation in environmental matters in Lusaka and Zambia as a whole. Key words: Environmental education, community participation, environmental impact assessment.
Environmental education--Zambia , Community participation--Environmental education--Zambia