Actioning sustainability through next generation community-based environmental assessment
Biswal, Rajib Lochan
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This research was initiated as a small step towards actioning local sustainability, with the aim of contributing to solutions for overarching natural resource and environmental management (NREM) issues. Community-based environmental assessment (CBEA) is community-driven and focuses on participatory approaches to determining the environmental and social implications of local projects, and, as such, confronts many current NREM challenges in the context of smaller, rural development projects. Next generation CBEA, drawing on next generation EIA principles, such as sustainability, meaningful public participation, follow-up and monitoring, and learning, was tested in my research to determine if it is better equipped to action local sustainability for small-scale projects than even CBEA. I conducted my research in two phases. In the first phase, I undertook key informant interviews with academics and EIA practitioners and made a field visit to Kenya to better understand CBEA in the local context and to establish potential case studies. This work helped me design a next generation CBEA architecture and develop a frame that included the steps for implementation. The second phase of my research focused on testing the next generation CBEA frame, which required collaboration among different agencies, such as NEMA (National Environment Management Authority, Kenya), licensed EIA experts, the project proponents, and community members. Once the initial linkages were established, I tested the potential of the next generation CBEA frame by implementing it in two different case study sites in Kenya. During the pre-CBEA phase, I spent additional time to understand the local context and build capacity among the CBEA participants to set the foundation for the actual CBEA. Three key conclusions were drawn from the research here: i. role of the pre-CBEA phase in next generation CBEA is crucial since the advanced form of CBEA requires preparation for the successful integration of next generation components. Second, the key role of the facilitator is quite multidimensional in next generation CBEA, including responsibility for liaising, collaboration, and capacity building of participants. Third, next generation CBEA and social learning share a symbiotic relationship. Next generation CBEA provides a platform to facilitate learning, and learning helps further the assessment.