Environmental Assessment as a Project Management Tool
One of the main strengths of environmental assessment (EA) is its flexibility. All projects have a planning process in which EA can be integrated. Given its sensitivity to the social and economic as well as environmental impacts of projects, the EA process can be used in a project to accomplish many different objectives.
EA can be effectively employed by project managers to compensate for shortcomings in the project planning process. For example, a project which failed to adequately consult the community at the outset can take advantage of the EA to involve the community in a necessary exchange of ideas and views. The EA can help establish and strengthen decision-making and communication mechanisms within a project. It can also pave the way for introducing innovations.
An EA may reveal sound environmental, social or economic reasons for shifting a project's direction. In view of the primacy accorded the opinions and aspirations of local people, the EA process may also function as a project control mechanism. While the EA should not be expected to correct all the weaknesses of a flawed planning process, when properly designed and executed, it can be a valuable tool for project implementation.
When the role of the EA is more restricted, the situation can work in reverse. Other project planning activities can be used to gather necessary information for the EA and to create support for the EA process. Each project manager must decide how much importance to accord each planning activity.