Environmentally sustainable development has become one of the most important challenges facing development institutions such as the World Bank in recent years. Accordingly, the Bank has introduced a variety of instruments into its lending and advisory activities. Environmental Assessment (EA) is one of the most important of these tools.
The purpose of EA is to enhance projects by helping prevent, minimize, mitigate or compensate for any adverse environmental and, often, social impacts. Development institutions and many developing countries have introduced EA requirements and regulations into their development activities, and their experience to date shows that EAs often do provide these benefits.
EA at the World Bank
In 1989 the Bank adopted Operational Directive (OD) 4.00, Annex A: Environmental Assessment and EA became standard procedure for Bank-financed investment projects. The directive was amended as OD 4.01 in 1991 and is presently in the process of conversion to an Operational Policy OP 4.01. EA is designed to be a flexible process which makes environmental considerations an integral part of project preparation and which allows environmental issues to be addressed in a timely and cost-effective way during project preparation and implementation.
The primary responsibility for the EA process lies with the borrower; the Bank’s role is to advise the borrowers throughout the process and ensure that practice and quality are consistent with EA requirements and that the process feeds effectively into project preparation and implementation.