Authenticity verification of EIA reports by NGOs

Over the past couple of months some might have seen this billboard on highway 40 and around Montreal claiming that the sun is the real cause for global warming. In response to such a claim a Quebec based organization led a funding campaign, with Indiegogo, to offer a new billboard to the population of Montreal.(1)

(English: what science really says: climate is changing. Because of us.)

This introduces the main topic of this blog, What do we do when fallacious information is being presented as representing the scientific truth? In the case of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) when such instances occur, agencies such as the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE), when mandated, would identify and offer suggestions. BAPE exists to offer a voice to those who believe negative environmental impacts could arise from upcoming projects(2). When the demand is felt the government would mandate BAPE to carry out an investigation.

Le Bape a pour mission d’éclairer la prise de décision gouvernementale dans une perspective de développement durable, lequel englobe les aspects biophysique, social et économique” (2)

(English: BAPE’s mission  is to enlighten the decision making process for the government,  keeping in mind sustainable development, which encompasses the biophysical, social and  economic sphere. )

There is an obvious need to have a regulatory agency who would protect the public in EIAs, which would act like consumer protection does with deceptive business practices(3 & 4). It would expose misleading information presented to the public related to the implementation of development projects.  The public could gather all the false or erroneous facts, with the help of  social media, such as twitter. Once reported and confirmed, all the information could be collected in one area, possibly a web page. Then a specialist could potentially provide an alternative explanation to what is being claimed.

When NGOs  find errors

Lacking an agency do this task, we could turn to NGOs, which have been known to report instances where sure incidences were found in EIA reports.  Here are two case studies where  NGOs have acted in the interests of the public when faced with shady EIA reports.

India, Mithivirdi nuclear power plant

-Anomalies were found in the EIA report made for this project by a local NGO, Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti. Concerns for the potential cumulative impacts due to the location of nearby dam and ship-breaking yard were ignored in the final assessment. Was this intentional, or a case  of simple carelessness? (more info)(5)

Malaysia, 300mW coal-fired plant

-The NGO at work under the name Green Surf noted many errors in the EIA report made available for the coal-fired plant, ranging from falsely identifying communities  to assessing  species of birds not actually present on the site of the future project. The presence of multiple errors has made local communities hesitant towards the project. (more info)(6)

As a future EIA practitioner, I believe it is important to keep in mind who the results of EIA reports affect the most: the ones at risk with fallacious reports are the local communities around the future project site. There are also ecological risks. To some extent, concerning money & reputation, one could even argue that proponents are also at risk if an issue were to arise in an EIA report and affect the environment. May it be for monetary or for health motivations, one should always express the truth in these report and work with the local NGOs. The extent of the potential impact is too important to continue carrying out EIAs as they are. Information authenticity should be a priority.

_______________________________________________________________

Interesting links

Association des Communicateurs Scientific du Quebec

http://www.acs.qc.ca/

An article about the Friends of Science billboard:

https://ca.news.yahoo.com/blogs/dailybrew/friends-of-science-bring-controversial-billboard-203616672.html

References:

(1)”Riposte à la désinformation scientifique au Québec” https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/riposte-a-la-desinformation-scientifique-au-quebec. Retrieved 23rd, 2015.

( 2)”Le Bureau d’audience publiques sur l’environment”   http://www.bape.gouv.qc.ca/sections/documentation/depliant_Participation.pdf Retrieved 23rd, 2015.

(3) “Consumer Information:Provincial and Territorial Legislation”  http://www.consumerinformation.ca/eic/site/032.nsf/eng/01173.html Retrieved 25th Jan 2015.

(4) “Consumer information: Unfair or Deceptive Business Practices”  http://www.consumerinformation.ca/eic/site/032.nsf/eng/00072.html Retrieved 25th Jan, 2015.

(5)dna “NGO finds errors in Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report of Mithi Virdi” http://www.dnaindia.com/ahmedabad/report-ngo-finds-errors-in-environmental-impact-assessment-eia-report-of-mithi-virdi-1830875 Retrieved 25th Jan, 2015.

(6)Sario, R( 2010)”Errors in DEIA leaves Sabahans stunned” http://www.thestar.com.my/story/?sec=southneast&file=%2f2010%2f8%2f2%2fsouthneast%2f6777380 & Green SURF (2009) http://nocoalsabah.blogspot.ca/2009/10/unite.html Retrieved 25th Jan, 2015.

A Case for Cumulative Effects Assessments in Protecting Caribou Populations

Despite being an unassailable cultural icon in Canada and enjoying a broad geographic spread, the North American caribou (Rangifer tarandus) faces many challenges to its long-term survival. Indeed, as of November, 2014, the majority of caribou subspecies have been listed as endangered, threatened, or of special concern under the Species at Risk Act[1] and continue to exhibit declining population trends outside of natural fluctuations[2]. As can be seen in the following illustration, every subspecies aside from barren-ground caribou and certain ecotypes of woodland caribou have been given special status, yet all herds suffer from a receding historical range[2]:

Distribution and Status of Caribou Subspecies in Canada

One major factor contributing to this decline is the large-scale disturbance to high-quality caribou habitats from development projects[3][4]. Although the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process is intended to minimize or avoid a project’s potential environmental impacts prior to implementation, it has not proven to be exceedingly effective in predicting or mitigating impacts on caribou populations due to its narrow, project-based approach[5]. Instead, more comprehensive practices such as cumulative effects assessments (CEAs) must be employed so the interactions between proposed activities and specialized, migratory species like caribou can be adequately understood.

Typically, a zone of influence around a project is demarcated in order to assess the spatiotemporal extent of its disturbances on caribou populations[4]. This approach, however, implicitly assumes that disturbances are isolated to a single project and neglects the interaction of effects from multiple projects and stressors in the region which combine to inflate the initial zone of influence and magnify its impacts. Properly assessing a project’s true zone of influence is essential for accurate impact predictions as caribou will often exhibit an avoidance response when encountering a zone of influence, whereby they alter their behaviour, distribution, or selection of suitable habitats[4]. Some observed avoidance responses have been so severe that caribou populations like the woodland caribou in northern Alberta have avoided high-quality habitats 1 km near oil and gas wells, equivalent to a 22-48% loss in available habitat[4]. Pictured below is an example of a suitable boreal habitat that could be abandoned by caribou if cumulative disturbances in the region are too great[6].

Caribou Entering Boreal Forest Habitat

Negative impacts on caribou populations are not always so linear either. A study by Beauchesne et al. (2014) showed that woodland caribou responded to an increase in cumulative anthropogenic disturbances by expanding their home ranges, a behaviour shift which resulted in greater energy expenditures and risk of exposure to predators[3]. These kinds of indirect effects generally occur outside the scope of an individual project yet they still interact to endanger caribou population persistence. Similarly, Frid and Dill (2002) provide a simple model that depicts how effects like disturbances and predation encounters displace caribou from preferred habitats and create a cascading response that indirectly affects population size[7].

Model of Indirect Effects on Caribou Population Size

Given the complexity of population dynamics then, the simpler project-based approach to impact prediction and evaluation should be relegated to smaller projects that do not infringe upon caribou habitats. CEA is currently the most viable tool to address the myriad of spatiotemporal factors at the landscape level, and, while often criticized for being ineffective[4], it has great potential for improvement. One suggestion to render CEAs more effective is to establish cumulative effect thresholds that are incorporated into the approval process for industrial activity occurring within caribou ranges[5]. As of yet though, no such thresholds exist within any jurisdiction in Canada[5].

References

[1]Environment Canada. (2014). Species at Risk Act (S.C. 2002, c.29). Ottawa, ON: Minister of Justice.

[2]Gunn, A., Russell, D., and J. Eamer. (2011). Northern caribou population trends in Canada. Canadian Biodiversity: Ecosystem Status and Trends 2010, Technical Thematic Report No. 10. Ottawa, ON: Canadian Councils of Resource Ministers.

[3]Beauchesne, D., Jaeger, J.A.G., and M. St-Laurent. (2014). Thresholds in the capacity of boreal caribou to cope with cumulative disturbances: Evidence from space use patterns. Biological Conservation, 172, 190-199. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2014.03.002

[4]Johnson, C.J., and M. St-Laurent. (2011). Unifying Framework for Understanding Impacts of Human Developments on Wildlife. In D.E. Naugle (Ed.), Energy Development and Wildlife Conservation in Western North America (pp. 27-54). Washington, DC: Island Press.

[5]Anderson, R.B., Dyer, S.J., Francis, S.R., and E.M. Anderson. (2002). Development of a Threshold Approach for Assessing Industrial Impacts on Woodland Caribou in the Yukon. Whitehorse, YT: Applied Ecosystem Management Ltd.

[6]Youds, M. (December 26, 2013). Mountain Caribou Face Uncertain Future [Article]. Retrieved from http://www.vancouversun.com/technology/Mountain+caribou+face+uncertain+future/9325826/story.html

[7]Frid, A., and L. Dill. (2002). Human-caused Disturbance Stimuli as a Form of Predation Risk. Conservation Ecology, 6(1): 11.

Forests for sale: REDD+, conservation and the displacement of Indigenous populations

“REDD (schemes known collectively as Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) will increase the violation of our human rights, our rights to our lands, territories and resources, steal our land, cause forced evictions, prevent access and threaten indigenous agriculture practices, destroy biodiversity and culture diversity and cause social conflicts.”

[1] International Forum of Indigenous Peoples on Climate Change (IFIPCC) statement, November 2007

papua2

Photo: Mark Gudmens

Conservation is a dirty word in some circles, stemming from a lengthy history of further marginalizing already vulnerable populations. With (what should be) all eyes on the current quest to reduce atmospheric carbon emission rates, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) is being pushed as an effective solution to the global carbon crisis. Despite inherent shortcomings, there is still time to ensure that it becomes a useful framework for all aspects of impact assessment and serves the needs of local communities directly affected by it.

Early Conservation efforts

The conservation of “wilderness” for the benefits of developed nations is not a new idea, with early political powers in North America designating huge tracts of land, such as Yellowstone and Yosemite, as National parks [2]. By restricting the ways these areas were occupied and using a colonial framework of conservation and control, indigenous presence was erased from the landscape and historical territories grabbed by colonial settlers in order to “protect” western visions of nature [3].

Modern Environmental Conservation efforts

Over 20 percent of the planet’s surface is currently protected through conservation efforts by a handful of BINGOs (Big International Non-Governmental Organizations) [4]. Corporations, like Conservation International (CI), are altruistic in appearance, seeking to protect key global biodiversity hotspots [5]. Under the aegis of conservation, vast tracts of land in the global south have been deemed ecologically important and removed from the stewardship of local indigenous populations, to the detriment of both systems and with no strong social impact assessment (SIA) in place [5]. Additionally, these displaced persons are rarely compensated, becoming further marginalized in the name of conservation.

Thus, the overarching rubric of conservation continues to focus on notions of preservation of the wilds for the betterment of developed nations with little consideration to the indigenous populations that shaped these landscapes through thoughtful stewardship and symbiotic, sustainable relationships.

Enter: The next generation of environmental conservation and REDD+

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) was conceived of during the early push for global solutions to climate change, specifically during the 2005 COP-11 in Montreal, Canada [6]. This video, produced by the REDD desk, gives a brief description of how the program is supposed to incentivize the protection of global forests in the name of carbon offsets for developed nations and international organizations.

Despite the mention of protection for local indigenous communities and opportunities for participation throughout the EIA process, indigenous groups are mistrustful of the proposed REDD+. Due to a lengthy history of marginalization and displacement through colonial domination, many populations in developing nations have chosen to fight the implementation of a program they feel will only serve to line the pockets of rich Westerners and contribute little to actual reductions in carbon emission rates.

A pilot project conducted in Nepal found that the benefits of REDD+ were not fairly distributed between all members of a given community [7]. Although there were evident positive effects of the program, such as meaningful public participation, there is a need for a strong system of social safeguards in order to protect the indigenous populations that live in the regions [7]. Other authors criticize the “top-down” approach of the current REDD+ system and argue for a wider role for indigenous stakeholders in order to protect communities at the local level [8].

In order to create a framework that actually does what it was intended to do, REDD+ social safeguards must be designed with several keys concepts in mind. The importance of a bottom-up approach to the sustainable management of these new spaces is crucial to the success of REDD+. Further to this, a clear and well defined social impact assessment (SIA) that considers the needs of the local communities before the wants of international institutions must be equipped with the power to challenge decisions made by forces removed from the landscape.


References

[1] The International Forum of Indigenous Peoples on Climate Change (IFIPCC) The 13th Session of Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC SBSTA 27, agenda item 5/REDD Accessed online February 10, 2015. http://www.indigenousclimate.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=55&Itemid=59&lang=en

[2] Vaccaro, I., Beltran, O., and Paquet, P. A. 2013. Political ecology and conservation policies: some theoretical genealogies. Journal of Political Ecology, 20. 255-272. Online http://jpe.library.arizona.edu/volume_20/Vaccaro.pdf

[3] Robbins, P. 2012. Political Ecology; a critical introduction, 2nd ed. Wiley-Blackwell.

[4] Dowie, M. 2010. Conservation Refugees. Cultural Survival; 34, 1. Accessed January 22, 2015. Online http://www.culturalsurvival.org/publications/cultural-survival-quarterly/none/conservation-refugees

[5] Survival International. November 14, 2014. Parks need peoples. Survival International Report. Accessed online February 6, 2015 http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/10546

[6] Agrawal, A., Nepstad, D. and Chhatre, A. 2011. Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. Annual Review of Environmental Resources, vol. 36, p. 373-396. Accessed online February 6, 2015.

[7] Maraseni, T. N., Neupane, P. R., Lopez-Casero, F., and Cadman, T. 2014. An assessment of the impacts of the REDD+ pilot project on community forests user groups (CFUGs) and their community forests in Nepal. Journal of Environmental Management. Vol. 136, p. 37-46. Accessed February 6, 2015.

[8] Corbera, E. and Schroeder, H. 2011. Governing and implementing REDD+. Environmental Science & Policy, vol. 14:2, p. 89-99.

Mandatory Environmental Corporate Social Responsibility: Can Canada become a leader?

CSR-title-graphic

Corporate Knights, 2011 [3]

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has become an integral part of the corporate decision-making process. This acceptance of EIA as a project decision making tool with processes for identifying and evaluating impacts has translated into the world of corporate management with the creation of various public reports on corporate social responsibility (CSR). Over the past decade sustainable development reporting has been adopted by the majority of Canadian companies as a means of strengthening the link between the companies and their stakeholders [2]. Unfortunately, the comparison of those reports is hampered by the difficulty of defining corporate social responsibility [3]. As Cory Searcy states in his article [1] corporations have been struggling with the question of what information they should be sharing with the public and how should they be presenting it.

The issues of defining CSR and reporting how a company’s environmental, social and governance programs meet their corporate sustainable development goals can be addressed through the use of reporting standards. But what reporting standards should be used? There are a multitude of guidelines and standards for CSR reporting that have resulted in a very broad range in the quantity and quality of information in CSR reports [1]. The experience of the last ten years shows that voluntary reporting may not be serving stakeholders and the public very well. Analysis of 94 Canadian corporate sustainability reports showed that 585 different indicators were reported yet only three indicators were shared between the companies [1]. This degree of variance in the reports is surprising given the robust standard of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). Voluntary reporting may be widely accepted, but it clearly is not serving the needs of the stakeholders and the public.

GRI Reporting Cycle

GRI Reporting Cycle [4]

Mandatory reporting addresses most of the shortcoming of voluntary reporting. It allows for clearer corporate communication with mutually understood terminology and measures, and allows stakeholders to more easily compare the CSR statements of various companies [2]. In 1993 Canada was one of the leaders in mandatory reporting with the Whitehorse Mining Initiative, but has lagged since then. Corporate lobbying and government reluctance to regulate has left Canada with a poor voluntary reporting process and few standards. In countries where mandatory reporting structures have been adopted, socially responsible managerial practices have increased, and sustainable development key performance indicators have been implemented [2]. With a mandatory reporting structure in place, overall social responsibility increases due to improvements in communication and comparability.

How can Canada regain a leading position in CSR reporting? Adopting mandatory reporting standards based on the GRI guidelines for all companies would be a good start. The current reporting structure involving the financial and other regulated industries needs be expanded to incorporate the GRI standards. On the world stage, this would allow Canadian companies to better demonstrate their commitment to corporate sustainable development and would help Canada to repair its environmental reputation.

 

References:

[1] Searcy, Cory (2012) Mandatory reporting? Corporate Knights, 11(1), 38-39.

[2] CGA-Canada (2011) Regulating sustainability reporting – Is a mandatory approach better than a voluntary one? December 2011.

[3] Drohan, Madelaine (2011) Big country, small steps: Taking a critical look at the last decade of corporate social responsibility in Canada. Corporate Knights, issue 35, 25-28.

[4] Brown, H. S., de Jong, M., & Levy, D. L. (2009). Building institutions based on information disclosure: lessons from GRI’s sustainability reporting. Journal of Cleaner Production, 17(6), 571-580.

Incorporating Climate Change in EIA

by: Adam Pinchefsky

Climate Change has been recognized as a serious global issue for decades, but to date our actions have been inadequate to deal with the problem. Governments around the world dodge the issue, agreeing that actions must be taken to prevent serious climate change but are not doing much to stop it because climate change is not high on the list of voter priorities. One main challenge in dealing with climate change is that its causes are greatly embedded in almost every facet of our daily lives.

climate-change-science-v-politics-cartoon

Source: Don McLenaghen, 2012 [5]

Sources of greenhouse gases (GHGs), the culprit for climate change, are endless. Burning fossil fuels is woven into almost every factor of society such that halting their use is, at least for now, not a viable option. Such an action could precipitate a collapse in the farming industry, heavily reliant on fossil fuels, which could lead to widespread food shortages and possibly to famine. Industry and manufacturing could collapse, most mechanized transportation would cease, and most energy demands would not be met as existing renewable energy sources account for a fraction of our energy supply. The effects of climate change can already be seen with rising sea levels caused by increased melting of ice caps and glaciers and thermal expansion of water (caused by increasing temperatures). If governments and corporations continue to focus primarily on economic issues rather than on environmental protection, steps will need to be taken to force them into action. This is where I believe the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process can be an effective tool.

Claire Carter, 2013

Source: Claire Carter, 2013 [6]

An effective way of mitigating the effects of climate change is to incorporate climate change impacts and adaptation into pre-existing project structures [1]. EIAs could be very effective in this regard as they are already well established in most developed countries and are a legal requirement for many projects. EIAs already include direct and indirect effects of climate in its guidelines [4]. While regular EIAs would be effective at addressing the site specific impacts that projects will have on climate change, strategic environmental assessments (SEAs) can impact project development over entire regions [2, 3]. EIAs occur before projects are approved and can be used to determine the impacts the projects will have on climate change (amount of GHG emissions) and propose ways to mitigate those impacts prior to project approval. Canada and Australia have already incorporated climate change into the EIA process, however it is more focused on the impacts that climate change will have on the project than the other way around[1].

With GHG emissions rapidly increasing across the globe, action must be taken now to curb this increase. EIAs are an effective existing tool that can be used to lower emissions at the project planning stage, and can help such projects become more environmentally sustainable. Countries should include measures for incorporating climate change mitigation into existing EIA guidelines.

References:

[1] Agrawala, Shardul et al., 2012. Incorporating climate change impacts and adaptation in environmental impact assessments: Opportunities and challenges.  Climate and Development, 4:26-39.

[2] Carter, Claire. Environmental Secretary accused of ‘immoral’ stance on climate change. The Telegraph (October 1, 2013). <Last accessed March 17, 2014: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/climatechange/10346050/Environment-Secretary-accused-of-immoral-stance-on-climate-change.html

[3] Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment, 2014. EIA & Climate Change. <Last accessed March 17, 2014: https://www.iema.net/eia-climate-change&gt;.

[4] Justice and Environment, 2012. Climate change aspects in environmental impact assessment procedures. <Last accessed March 17, 2014: http://www.google.ca/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=14&ved=0CDcQFjADOAo&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.justiceandenvironment.org%2F_files%2Ffile%2F2012%2FCC%2520in%2520EIA%281%29.pdf&ei=j7YoU73ZFaOTyQHK_oHADw&usg=AFQjCNFmVGjErd-q49DX6LZ4Pbtw0c2e-w&sig2=rAfgqB_SsUsNudtpAhjBmQ&gt;.

[5] McLenaghen, Don, 2012. The double standard of climate scandal. <Last accessed March 17, 2014: http://radiofreethinker.com/tag/climate-change/&gt;.

[6] Smith. The role for EIA in Climate Change. National Environmental Assessment Service. Environment Agency. <Last accessed March 17, 2014: https://www.iaia.org/publicdocuments/affiliates-and-branches/ireland-uk/IAIA%20Ire-UK%20Branch_Smith.pdf>.

Career Paths for Environmental Impact Assessment Graduates

by Dana Feingold

Life

Image source

Environmental impact assessment (EIA) is a trans-disciplinary field that integrates public policy, qualitative analysis, quantitative and statistical analysis, GIS mapping, stakeholder engagement, long-range planning, scientific expertise, and many other knowledge areas.  Some professionals come to EIA practice with a natural science or urban planning background, while others come from postgraduate academic programs such as those offered by Concordia University or the University of Manchester that are specifically designed to incorporate the diverse specializations within the environmental assessment field.

Once a student finishes his or her master’s program in environmental assessment, there is a wide range of career paths that he or she may choose to take.  Broadly speaking, these paths include environmental consulting; environmental advocacy organizations (generally non-profit or nongovernmental organizations); government jobs (at the local, provincial, or federal levels).  These three paths are explained in brief below.

Environmental Consulting

An entry-level position for an EIA graduate within an environmental consulting firm will expose the new professional to site visits, data collection and analysis, and technical writing.  He or she will work as part of a multidisciplinary team alongside engineers, architects, and environmental and social scientists on projects ranging in size from site-specific actions to oil pipelines stretching hundreds of kilometers.  Examples of possible employers include large international firms like URS or small, local firms like D & G EnviroGroup.

Non-Profit and Advocacy Organizations

EIA students may choose to work for an organization that promotes sustainability, rather than a private company that may potentially harm the environment through its actions.  These organizations stand to benefit from the strong research and analytical skills as well the data visualization and mapping strengths that an EIA program graduate gains in school.  Job duties may include research on environmental regulations or outreach to communities or corporations in efforts to encourage them to be more sustainable.  An example of a non-profit organization that might hire EIA graduates is Pollution Probe.  Inter- and non-governmental organizations that could benefit from the diverse skill set of an EIA graduate include the United Nations Environmental Program and the Nature Conservancy.

 Government

Because EIA is often mandated at the government level, there is no shortage of government career opportunities for graduating students trained in environmental assessment.  A government position for a recent EIA graduate may involve contributing to environmental impact assessment reviews or to the development and implementation of legislation.  He or she may also participate in writing, research, or analysis for environmental assessments conducted by the department or agency in which he or she is placed.  In Canada, government EIA jobs are available with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency or the Ontario Ministry of the Environment.

Requirements of gender friendly public participation in Environmental Impact Assessments

Environmental Impact Assessments(EIAs) are used as a regulatory, planning and decision making tool for most medium and large scale development projects around the world. These assessments have three main components: planning and decision making; documentation of potential impacts (positive and negative); and involvement of stakeholders throughout the project life [1]. Unfortunately there is no standard protocol for EIAs and jurisdictions around the globe specify different requirements for public involvement in the EIA process [1]. For example, in the Canadian Environmental Assessment System, public participation has been identified as one of the integral parts of the EIA process [2]. CEAA 2012 has five main domains for public participation: adequate notice, access to information, public comment, public hearing, and participant funding [2]. However, the importance of the involvement of women in the practice of EIA public participation process has not been well addressed. In fact, provision of gender involvement in EIA public participation process is lacking.

Men and women have different priorities, demands, knowledge and skill of the utilization of existing natural resources [3]. Since these differences exist, women play very important role in protecting and managing the natural resources such as forest, land and water at the local level [4]. In fact, women hold unique knowledge of ecosystems and environmental sustainability from being the primary users of natural resources in their daily livelihood and are further most affected by distortion in ecosystems [5]. Equal participation of women in the EIA public participation process would allow for a more comprehensive assessment of impacts by including a wider range of public knowledge. This video 

highlights the importance of gender equality. For these reasons, a gender-friendly policy would help to strengthen the voice of women in the EIA planning and decision making process so both sectors of the community (men and women) are compensated for the negative impacts of the development project.  At the same time, the development project would also benefit from more relevant and important indigenous and traditional ecological knowledge from both men and women.

Involvement of women in the EIA process can also minimize the long term cost of impacts and help to mitigate conflict by creating meaningful roles and responsibilities to facilitate the effective implementation of the project by having inclusive representative public participation from the initial phases of the EIA. Several organizations such as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations [6] have already indicated the importance of gender equality in access to resources, goods, services and decision making.

Most parts of the world, women still struggle for equality, empowerment, and chance to learn and chance to decide (see this video) 

 Women are the most vulnerable group of the community [6]. Although all human beings are impacted, vulnerable fractions of the community such as women who represent the majority of the world’s poor, are most affected by environmental degradation from development projects [7]. Thus, women need access to information about  proposed developments, and the opportunity to participate in decision making process.

Therefore the equal participation of men and women is important in EIA process. Recognizing the significance of women’s participation in the EIA process, we require policy to focus on encouraging the participation of women in environmental activities. However, the existing policies for EIAs are completely gender blind and do not provide for equal involvement and participation of men and women.

References:

1. Noble, Bram F. 2010. Introduction to Environmental Impact Assessment: A Guide to Principles and Practice. 2ndedition, Oxford University Press, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 274 pp

2. CEAA. 2012. Canadian Environmental Assessment Act-2012. Available at     http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/PDF/C-15.2.pdf

3. UNDES (United Nations Development of Economic and Social Affairs). 2004. A Gender Perspective on water Resources and sanitation, submitted by: Interagency Task Force on Gender and Water, background paper 2. DESA/DSD/2005/2.

4. Elizabeth,Byers and Sainju Meeta.1994. Mountain ecosystems and women: opportunities for sustainable development and conservation. Mountain research and development 14(3): 213-228.

5. Ivens, Saskia. 2009. Gender Perspectives in Integrated Water Resources Management.  The 25th session of the Governing Council / Global Ministerial Environment Forum (GC/GMEF) of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Nairobi, Kenya.4 pp.

6. FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations). 2013. Food policy on gender equality: attending food security goals in agriculture and rural development. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, 11 pp

7. OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe). 2009. Gender