Influence of Environmental Impact Assessment in minimizing climate change impacts on transport infrastructure in Kenya

Nyarieko, W., Nzioka, J., Oludhe, C., & Opere, A

Transport sector infrastructure is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Over the past few decades, Kenya has witnessed a number of extreme rainfall events with consequent damage on transport infrastructure. This calls for a paradigm shift in the planning, design and construction of infrastructure. Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as a planning tool has the potential to minimize climate change impacts on transport infrastructure. This study therefore aimed at reviewing the impact of extreme rainfall on Kenyan road infrastructure, analyze the contribution of EIA practice in the minimization of these impacts and examine the barriers to the integration of climate change issues into EIA practice. Mean monthly rainfall anomalies were computed using data from nine representative meteorological stations in Kenya covering the period 1980 to 2017. These anomalies guided a review of climate impacts on the transport infrastructures that were retrieved from various archived information sources. Systematic sampling method was applied in selecting 71 EIA reports from the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) database and a survey conducted among 105 EIA Experts and 8 Key Informants. Results of the study revealed that extreme rains associated with climate variability and change caused unprecedented damage to transport infrastructure in Kenya and the contribution of current EIA practice in handling climate change impacts was found to be very low. Findings from the survey undertaken cited weak institutional monitoring and enforcement capacity (75.3%), inadequate knowledge of climate change science among EIA experts (74.3%), unavailability of reliable climate data (50.5%) and inadequate EIA regulations (46.7%) as the main barriers to climate change integration into EIA practice. The effectiveness of EIA in addressing climate change impacts and adaptation would therefore be enhanced through training of EIA experts, strengthening the capacity of monitoring and enforcement institutions, continued research on climate change and revision of EIA regulations among others.