Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context
Environmental impact assessment (EIA) is a procedure and set of activities that aim to prevent damage from developments such as the construction of major infrastructure projects. The process of EIA identifies potential impacts and issues at the planning stage of the development initiative and links these to mitigation at the implementation phase. Most EIAs involve at least three stages:
- Collecting data and preparing a written environmental statement that describes the possible impacts of the proposed development.
- Consultation based on the statement.
- Taking account of the assessment findings in the development process with the aim of mitigating the environmental impacts.
The Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context, also known as the Espoo Convention, was adopted in 1991 and came into force in 1997. (Espoo is a city in Finland.) It has the aim of preventing environmental damage and threats from transboundary developments. Examples include irrigation and diversion of watercourses, oil refineries, power stations, radioactive waste processing and storage, large-scale projects for construction, pipelines, bridges and dams. As well as the environmental impacts, developments of this type can also bring changes in community lifestyles and social values.
Generally, an EIA is a means of supporting sustainable development, depending on how the assessment is carried out. The great majority of countries in the world, including Ethiopia, have adopted mandatory regulations. The Espoo Convention was signed and ratified by the Ethiopian parliament and has led to several regulations and proclamations in order for it to be applicable under Ethiopian law.