Environmental Impact Assessment



1.1 Purpose of the Guidelines

The purpose of these Guidelines for Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in Malawi is to facilitate compliance with Malawi's EIA requirements by Government, project developers, donors and the general public. The guidelines will help to integrate environmental concerns in national development and will be applicable to all types of projects, in the public and private sectors, for which EIA studies may be or are required. It is expected that sectoral guidelines for specific types of projects (e.g. dams, roads, industrial parks) will be produced in due course by the responsible line agencies and donors in consultation with the Environmental Affairs Department.

1.2 What is an Environmental Impact Assessment?

EIA is both a process and a tool for project planning and decision making. Its purpose is to:

1.2.1 integrate environmental considerations in development planning thereby promoting sustainable livelihoods;

1.2.2 ensure that the environmental and socio-economic costs and benefits of economic development projects are properly accounted for;

1.2.3 ensure that unwarranted negative impacts are avoided or mitigated at an early stage in the planning process;

1.2.4 ensure that potential benefits are identified and enhanced;

1.2.5 carry out environmental and socioeconomic studies of projects in parallel with analyses of technical and economic feasibility;

1.2.6 ensure that decision makers are provided with information on a project's environmental costs and benefits to complement information on its technical and economic feasibility at key decision points in the development of the project;

1.2.7 ensure that all the affected and interested groups (grass-roots communities; government authorities, developers, investors, NGOs, donors etc.) participate in the process;

1.2.8 set up a machinery to carry out mitigation and monitoring;

1.2.9 promote inter and intra-sectoral linkages and

1.2.10 conserve the social, historical and cultural values of people and their communities.

In principle, these guidelines are more applicable to EIAs for projects and their implementation. The word "project" under the Environmental Management Act (1996) assumes a wide meaning and include "a development activity or proposal which has or is likely to have an impact on the environment". Increasingly project level EIA is becoming recognized as a very useful but limited tool. This is because projects are proposed within policies, programmes and/or plans which, themselves, may not have been investigated for their environmental consequences. Such policies, programmes and plans however require a high level of analysis called strategic environmental assessment (SEA). This gives room for timely corrective measures to avoid or mitigate adverse impacts at project level. Government will from time to time prescribe kinds of activities which will benefit from SEA.

1.3 Prerequisites for EIA

A number of factors influence whether or not a nation will have successful environmental policies in order to better manage and conserve its environment. The following are major factors:

1.3.1 Political Will
Political support and endorsement are vital if EIA procedures are to be accepted. The commitment of political leadership to create an enabling environment for sustainable development is a pre-requisite for successful environmental policies and other associated activities. This requires the integration of environmental concerns in all major economic and social policies, plans and decision making.

1.3.2 Legal Framework
A legal framework is essential for introducing and managing an EIA process. The Malawi Government has introduced an environmental law within which EIA is a legal requirement for any prescribed project under Section 24 (1) of the EMA. The law will be amended as and when necessary, to be in line with current scientific, technological knowledge and environmental social needs.

1.3.3 Human Resources Development
EIA capacity and awareness are low in Malawi. To enhance this, a network of Environmental Focal Points has been established involving various institutions in the public, private and non-governmental organization. Government will design programs of training in EIA within local institutions.

1.3.4 Funding for EIAs
Funding of EIA studies is an obligation of the project developer. This should be included as part of project costs.

1.3.5 Environmental Management Plan
Each detailed EIA should have an environmental management plan which provides details of the work programme or schedule. These may include technical control measures, an integrated management scheme, monitoring, contingency measures, operating practices, project scheduling, joint management with affected groups, mitigation costs and value judgements

1.3.6 Popular Participation
For any successful development activity it is important to have popular participation right from the grassroots. This allows for accommodating views of those who will benefit or be affected by the proposed activity. In recognition of this, the EMA calls for public consultation in the EIA process. Public participation should ensure that women and children are actively involved since they are the major resource users and managers. This is crucial to ensure environmentally sustainable development.

1.3.7 Institutional Set Up
The EIA process requires the establishment and strengthening of competent national environment authorities through an Act of Parliament. A central authority must coordinate and advise on all environmental issues, including EIA procedures and requirements. In Malawi, the Environmental Affairs Department (EAD) is such an authority. The Environmental Affairs Department should collaborate with existing institutions and help strengthen and improve their competence in carrying out EIAs. Details of roles of different institutions are given in Chapter 2 of these guidelines.

1.3.8 Formal Development Approval System
A formal project development approval process is in place. Public sector development projects require approval of the National Economic Council prior to the start of the project. For private sector projects, although there is no need for approval from the National Economic Council different stages do need licences from licensing authorities.

1.4 Statutory Basis for EIA

The application of EIA in Malawi is based upon the requirements of the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and the Environmental Management Act. 

1.4.1 By signing the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, Malawi committed herself, among other things, to Principle 17 concerning EIA:

1.4.2 Environmental impact assessment, as a national instrument, shall be undertaken for proposed activities that are likely to have a significant adverse impact on the environment and are subject to a decision of a competent national authority.

The Environmental Management Act outlines an EIA process for Malawi and require project developers to comply with that process. The process is managed by the Director of Environmental Affairs (DEA) in the Environmental Affairs Department. The Act specifies that the types and sizes of projects subject to EIA be prescribed and gazetted. Secondly, guidelines be published to assist compliance with EIA requirements, and that non-compliance is an offense. It also specifies that any project subject to EIA requirements cannot be licensed and implemented until a satisfactory EIA study has been completed and the project has been approved by the Director of Environmental Affairs. Project developers are required to implement any terms and conditions which the Director may attach to his approval. The full text of the relevant sections of the Act is given in Appendix A.

Thus, EIA is a statutory requirement in Malawi and the Act provides for penalties for noncompliance. At the same time, the Environmental Affairs Department recognizes that legal sanctions have limited usefulness and that the quest for environmentally-sustainable development will only succeed if there is society-wide support for achieving its objectives.

1.5 Integrating EIA into the Project Cycle

Any project moves through a number of phases in the course of being transformed from an idea into an operating concern. Typically, a project begins as a concept then moves through pre-feasibility and feasibility studies before a detailed design and then implementation. During implementation, monitoring and evaluation are conducted. This contribute to subsequent development of new project concepts, thus completing the Project cycle".

Malawi's EIA process is specifically designed to integrate EIA requirements within the project cycle. This integration is essential for the EIA study to provide timely environmental information at key stages in the project cycle. Thus, early results from an EIA may indicate practical design changes, which would avoid or reduce negative environmental impacts, or better capture environmental benefits. The project developer may then adopt these changes into the project plan, and the final EIA document would be based upon the revised plan and describe both reduced impacts and more modest needs for impact management. Similarly, Government has the opportunity to review and comment upon a project as it is formulated and, where necessary, require changes to avoid or reduce adverse environmental impacts before irrevocable project decisions are made. Thus, the EIA process proceeds in several stages (Figure 1.1), not all of which may be required on any particular project.

At the start of the EIA process there is screening and scoping stage that result into the production of a Project Brief. The project brief is received and reviewed by Government at the project concept to early pre-feasibility and feasibility study phase. 

 If an EIA is deemed necessary, it is timed to coincide with feasibility studies and detailed design when the detailed information it provides is most useful to project planners. The purpose of designing EIA requirements in this way is to encourage project developers to include the "EIA team" within the broader project development team and to make constructive use of EIA findings as they are generated. The result is that EIA studies should be useful both to project developers as a planning tool in designing more environmentally sustainable projects and to Government as an evaluation tool in fulfilling its environmental and natural resources management responsibilities. The integration of EIA into existing project planning and approval processes in Malawi is discussed in Chapter 3 of these guidelines

1.6 Who are these guidelines addressed to?

These guidelines are intended for use by
1.6.1 government ministries and departments;
1.6.2 project developers;
1.6.3 the general public;
1.6.4 politicians;
1.6.5 consultants;
1.6.6 NGOs and environmental pressure groups


Foreword | Preface | Contents | Acknowlegdements  | Acronyms | Glossary
Chapter One | Chapter Two | Chapter Three | References
Appendices | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | HAnnex I