Tanzanian environmental and natural resource lawyer, Dr Rugemeleza Nshala, has called on multi-national companies interested in resources in Africa to ensure that the rules of environmental impact assessment were followed religiously.
He said mostly, the voluminous documents on the environment came in language that large sections of the people do not understand, saying that people partake in the process and go home without any information and in the end suffer for it.
Speaking to the media after facilitating a training programme for journalists from Ghana, Tanzania and Uganda in Dar es Salam, he said it works better when reports are translated into languages that locals could easily understand.
He said when the people fully understand the issues in their local languages; they would be in the position to ensure that they made inputs and to also make use of the options available to them.
In Ghana he said for instance, the people should demand that members of the community hosting the new oil and gas development (TEN Project) were briefed in the languages they understand and not in the loaded English which most would not be familiar with.
“That is the only way the people will assert their right to challenge the report administratively, legally and to also make inputs that would ensure their safety,” he said.
“Citizens should enjoy all basic rights enshrined in their national constitutions such as equality before the law, right to life, right to clean and healthy environment; right to property; association, expression; right to take part in decision-making processes,” he said.
He said it was therefore important also that resource rich countries ensure that their present move to harness natural resources did not jeopardize the future of unborn generations.
The resources, he said, are finite and a lot of consultation should be done to ensure that informed decisions were taken to either tap or leave the resource untapped.
He said in most cases, the package that came with the resource exploitation and the associated problems to the communities which are clearly defined in the environmental impact assessments (EIA) are not adhered to.
Most EIAs, he said, are mostly cut and paste and that even though it was to help shape development in a manner that best suits the local environment and is most responsive to human needs, there was a need to conduct another strategic impact assessment.
EIAs, he said, had potential for the integration of environmental issues in planning and decision-making processes and also anticipation and minimisation of environmental damage; culture and public participation in decision-making and environmental conservation.
Story by Moses Dotsey Aklrobortu, Dar es Salam – Tanzania