The Cost of Environmental Assessment
Given the dearth of research in the field, it is not surprising that there is little information on the cost of carrying out EAs on community development projects. However, we can look to the experience with large projects for some indication of the costs involved. According to the World Bank (1991a:20), the cost of an EA rarely exceeds one percent of the total project cost. Mitigation measures usually account for three to five percent of total project cost (World Bank 1991a:20). These figures do not include the cost of environmental damage caused by a project which has not undergone an EA.
In large projects, the availability of related data and studies can help lower the cost of EA as a proportion of total cost (ESSA Technologies 1994). However, this is not as applicable to small community development projects, since so little data exists in this area. Also, it is much easier to keep environmental assessment costs down to one percent on a project whose total budget is $20,000,000 then on one whose budget is $20,000.
Given the modest budgets of most community development projects, it is imperative to find ways to limit costs. Over time, many believe that the costs of assessing small projects will eventually become proportionate to those of larger ones.
Here are some ideas for cutting costs:
- Incorporate the EA into other project planning activities such as feasibility studies.
- Seek the technical and financial assistance of government departments and other partners.
- Avoid the high costs associated with hiring technical specialists and building material by promoting community involvement.
- Costs usually diminish with experience and with the appropriate EA support mechanisms.