There is a significant and increasing awareness of environmental problems in Asia and the Pacific region. This is underscored by the fact that, during the past decade, most countries in the region have established institutional mechanisms to protect the environment, by setting up specific ministries, offices, or departments with environmental responsibilities. The media have also played an important role in heightening public awareness. Newspapers regularly and frequently carry local and international articles on environmental issues as do radio and television. Major environmental events such as the Ixtoc ‘blow-out’, the sinking of the Amoco Cadiz and the Bhopal and Chernobyl accidents were reported speedily and communicated to the homes of the vast majority of the population. The ‘only one earth’ perception is gaining ground with the advent of the age of telecommunication, so much so, that such incidents raise concerns as if they were happening nearby and not events occurring in far-off places in other parts of the world.
With this growing awareness, there is an increasing realization that the potential impacts of proposed development activities need to be assessed, so that appropriate mitigating measures can be adopted. Furthermore, the concept that the environment and development can be mutually enhancing and do not inherently conflict is beginning to gain ground. In this context, the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process is seen as a means not only of identifying potential impacts, but also of enabling the integration of the environment and development.
While EIA is being increasingly applied in the region, this is still a relatively recent phenomenon. Only within the last decade have countries been concerned with EIA. The major focus throughout has been at the project level, with attention paid, primarily, to techniques and tools used in assessment. There has been relatively little investigation of the whole EIA process. Many of the EIAs that have been carried out have attempted to identify and predict the potential effects that might result from the proposed activities. Very few have attempted to consider what would be the net positive and negative impacts of these effects on human health and welfare and on the environment.
Another observation on these EIAs is that in many studies, particularly the