Public participation in Malawi’s environmental impact assessment (EIA) process
Since the adoption of the Environmental Management Act of 1996, Malawi has been using environmental impact assessment (EIA) as a tool for predicting and assessing the impact of development projects on the environment. This study assessed the extent of public participation in Malawi’s EIA process. Desktop study of relevant documents such as EIA and environmental audit reports, policies and laws, books, journals and internet articles was done. Further information was obtained from relevant stakeholders through interviews and questionnaires. This involved fifteen respondents divided into three categories: five NCE members, five TCE members and five EIA practitioners. This study reveals that public participation is not adequate at most of the key stages of the EIA process in Malawi which puts the human and ecosystem health at risk. There is an urgent need to enforce the EIA provision as stipulated Malawi’s Environmental Management Act. Effort should focus on public awareness and human resource capacity development so that the EIA process is diligently executed and that enforcement and follow-ups are properly done by the Department of Environmental Affairs which is a lead agency on environmental issues in Malawi.
Key words: Public participation, environmental impact assessment, Malawi, enforcement.