Evaluation Of Public Participation In Environmental Impact Assessment Of The Southern Bypass Road In Nairobi, Kenya
Public participation in Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is meant to reduce conflict through early identification of contentious issues and provide an opportunity for the public to influence project design in a positive manner. The temporary stoppage of the construction of one section of the Southern Bypass Road Project (SBRP) in Nairobi South West which was to pass through the Nairobi National Park by the National Environmental Tribunal (NET) even after an EIA license was issued by the Regulatory Authority poses some critical questions on the utility of public participation in the EIA process. This study assessed the utility of public participation in EIA in project designs and implementation using the SBRP as a case study. The effect of public participation on the EIA process, its impact on the design and implementation of the project and other aspects that influenced the effectiveness of public participation in the EIA process of the SBRP in Nairobi were examined. Purposive sampling was used to select participants from the neighborhoods of the project site in addition to the Lead Agencies who participated in EIA project study of the SBRP. The study used interviews, questionnaires, reports and consultations with various Lead Agencies as instruments to collect data. The data collected was analyzed using percentages and frequencies. The results indicate that the public was involved in the EIA process by way of focus group discussions and consultative and public meetings among others. The results indicated that there was a low level of awareness about the SBRP and that the public were consulted late after the project had been handed over to the contractor meaning they were not involved at the planning and design stages of the road. Although public participation influenced the EIA process by contributing to the decisions made on the project, it did not influence the design of the road project. The participation influenced the implementation of the road project as evident in the litigation case that halted construction of one section of the road project as various ecological concerns were raised by some Lead Agencies such as the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and East Africa Wildlife Society (EAWS). The Study concluded that the public participation of the road project and the EIA came too late in the project cycle hence it could not influence the design of the road. The study recommends that the Government of Kenya be at the forefront of obeying the set laws in all her projects. The factors identified as barriers to effective public participation, should be moderated to guarantee an effective public participation process. Further research should be done on why governments projects are undertaken without following the laid down laws, polices and regulations and on how to improve the utility of public participation in EIA process in Kenya.