C. Role of Planning Bodies in promoting sustainable development functions, integrating environment into the planning visions.
Usually the planning body is the one member of the macroeconomic triumverate of institutions which takes a longer term view of development issues. It is the institution which collates, assesses and prioritizes the country's public investment programme. Therefore it has a crucial role in promoting sustainable development and the integration of environmental considerations into its work.
Environmental Assessment (EA) data are among the many inputs that go into formulation of national development policies and strategies that are ecologically sustainable. From a planning perspective, the EA data enable planners and policy makers to design mitigation or management plans to eliminate, offset or minimise adverse environmental impacts of policies and programmes.
Economic planning bodies require systematic access to relevant environmental data on a timely basis. In most countries, such information tends to be dispersed among various government agencies, private institutions, research bodies and universities. There is the need for a national system for the compilation and analysis of environmental data. These data could be stored in a central database and available for multiple use. The sharing of information between agencies not only avoids duplication of tasks but also enhances the capacity of each agency to undertake their planning and management functions.
Quite often the problem is not the lack of environmental data but rather the suitability of such data for economic planning purposes. For example, the environmental impacts of development policies may be better understood and appreciated by economists if they are expressed in monetary terms rather than in physical units. Of course, in some cases it may not be possible to express the environmental costs in monetary terms due to limitations in valuation methodologies. In such situations it would be useful to describe the effects in terms (e.g. graphical or qualitative) that can be easily understood by economic policy makers.
Examples of efforts to establish environmental information systems:
Examples of community involvement in environmental data collection:
Environmental information, for example, environmental values, is required in the decision making process to inform the planners and decision makers of the crucial role that ecological processes play in the achievement of sustainable development objectives. Currently, most planning bodies are constrained in achieving a linkage between the ecological and economic systems in the planning process. As already indicated above, lack of technical expertise is one of the major constraints. This constraint is especially severe in the Pacific Island countries, some of which need to bring in external consultants to evaluate the external effects of development projects.
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