Government regulatory bodies establish a set of environmental standards which polluting industries must conform to. failure to comply with the said standards result to prosecution. While it is indeed necessary, such regulations are drawn back by several limitation, typical of which are the oftentimes insufficient resources – both human and financial – of the implementing bodies resulting to the reported inefficiency of the said practice. As well as that, state-centred visions do not foresee the complexity of issues on the ground and the top-down management scheme usually fails to address the environmental concerns of the public.
Environmental impact assessment was seen to be the answer to the limitations of the “command and control” approach of traditional regulations. According to the Environmental Impact Assessment: a Guide to Procedures provided by the Department for Communities and Local Government (2006), EIA “describes a procedure that must be followed for certain types of project before they can be given development consent. The procedure is a means of drawing together, in a systematic way, an assessment of a projects likely significant environmental effects”. Given this definition, EIAs are envisaged to give weight to environmental considerations during the decision-making process along with economic and social factors.
The objectives of EIA are divided into short term and long term categories (Abaza et al, 2007). In the short term, the goal of EIA is to identify potentially significant environmental impacts of development projects in order to provide sufficient information to facilitate decision-making process. In the long term, the ultimate goal of EIA is to ensure that ecological functions are maintained for the benefit of present and future local .communities in adherence to the tenets of sustainable development. . Social considerations are also an integral part of EIA and where appropriate so are cultural and health aspects.