Ecological risk assessment (ERA): how appropriate for developing countries?

2013-07-09T11:53:55Z (GMT) by P.B.L. Tamuno Guy Howard Michael Smith
Most inhabitants of rural communities in developing countries depend on local ecosystems for their livelihoods. Any significant habitat alteration or modification could therefore have severe livelihood consequences in these rural communities. The demand for economic development in developing countries for national or regional economic growth cannot be overemphasised, but the benefits and risks from development projects have not been equitably distributed among the social strata. However, most development projects have adversely altered natural ecological systems, thereby affecting the natural productivity of these systems and local livelihoods. The destruction or undue modification of habitats with their rich and livelihood-sustaining biodiversity could be one reason for increasing the level of poverty in most rural communities in developing countries. The complexity and variability of ecological systems makes it even more difficult for ecological welfare assessments to be conducted, while the absence or inadequate baseline data has contributed to the low confidence of environmental assessments in these developing countries, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. Ecological risk assessment (ERA) provides a significant advance over traditional assessment approaches, by explicitly taking into consideration uncertainties associated with ecological systems. In this paper, the authors present an argument that if the ERA paradigm is correctly applied, it would be an appropriate tool for addressing the issues of intra-generational equity and ecological welfare and livelihoods in developing countries.