II. MECHANISMS FOR INTEGRATING ENVIRONMENTALCONSIDERATIONS
B. Procedural arrangements
Procedurally, all new projects to be undertaken by those government agencies, parastatals and autonomous bodies which receive grants through the government development (capital) budget are subject to scrutiny and clearance on at least three levels, irrespective of the sources of funding. In the first stage, each of the projects is expected to be reviewed internally by the implementing agency against such criteria as: consistency with the implementation capacity of the agency; the broad terms of reference of the agency itself; the priority of the development plan; and the implications in terms of recurrent costs and benefits. In addition, standard economic criteria such as the rate of return, benefit-cost ratio and overall feasibility are applied where relevant.
Following approval by the agency concerned at that level, the project proposal is forwarded to the ministry to which the agency is responsible or is affiliated, or with which the agency liaises, for clearance. The ministry scrutinizes the project in terms of its nature, size and complexity before forwarding it to NPC for approval.
In the third stage, the project requires NPC approval. Prior to formal NPC approval, the NPC secretariat reviews the proposal against a set of criteria including those related to the environment. The secretariat often requests clarification of a number of issues and questions by either the agency concerned or the ministry. Once the secretariat has formed its opinion on the project, the proposal is presented for approval either to the full Commission if the project is large, complex and/or beyond the jurisdiction of a single member, or only to the member concerned. Concurrent with the preparation of NEPAP, the NPC secretariat issued a comprehensive "National Environmental Impact Assessment Guidelines 1993" (National Planning Commission/World Conservation Union, 1993). The guidelines are applicable to any project, the NPC secretariat, line ministries and departments, consultants involved in EIAs, project implementors, environmentally concerned interest groups and the public.
Following NPC approval, the project is forwarded to the Ministry of Finance either for inclusion in the budget or for communication with the donor(s) depending on the funding source(s). However, NPC approval is no guarantee of resources for implementation, as the Ministry of Finance may be unable to provide the required budget.
Once the Environment Protection Act (EPA), 1997, comes into effect, proposals for all plans, programmes and projects which are likely to have impact on the environment, irrespective of their ownership, will need to be submitted to the government agencies concerned for approval through IEE and EIA reports. Despite the requirement for an IEE, if examination shows that a proposal will not have a significant adverse effect on the environment, it can be approved by the concerned agency itself and forwarded to the Ministry of Population and Environment. If examination of the IEE indicates that an EIA should also be carried out for that particular proposal, the agency can direct the party concerned to take the required action. After receiving the proposal together with an EIA report, the agency concerned is required to forward the report and its evaluation to the Ministry of Population and Environment. If it is considered necessary, the ministry can set up a committee of experts from the agencies concerned to review the project, and formulate comments and reaction on the EIA report. If the committee finds that the proposal will have no significant adverse impact on the environment, the Ministry of Population and Environment will then approve the proposal. Notwithstanding the above procedure, if the agency concerned or the Ministry of Population and Environment finds on examination of IEE or EIA reports that the likely adverse impact of a particular proposal on the environment can be minimized or controlled in a significant manner, the agency or the Ministry can approve the proposal contingent on the necessary controlling conditions being met.
Pending the formulation and enforcement of the relevant detailed regulation, it is difficult to identify which government agency is responsible for specific functions of pollution prevention and control enforcement, and the preservation of national heritage and environmental preservation. However, it is clear from the EPA that the Ministry of Population and Environment is the main agency for enforcement of pollution prevention and control, and that it can impose restrictions on the use of any material, fuel, equipment or machinery which is found to be having a significant adverse effect on the environment. Likewise, the Ministry of Population and Environment can appoint "environment inspectors" in order to minimize, mitigate or control pollution and enforce compliance according to IEE or EIA reports.
Given the existing realities, it appears that the Ministry of Population and Environment may experience difficulties in exercising its authority effectively and expeditiously because it is a very young organization with only a handful of staff who have minimal experience and expertise in the environmental field. In comparison, the sectoral agencies have long been dealing with environmental issues in their respective areas, even though in a limited and isolated manner and without any adequate legal framework, they have accumulated extensive and substantial knowledge, skills, experience and trained manpower. It would be unrealistic to assume that the Ministry of Population and Environment can take over some or much of the important authority and responsibilities at present exercised by the sectoral agencies without first developing and strengthening its own technical capabilities. In the initial stages, instead of functioning as a major executing and implementing agency, it would be advisable for the Ministry f Population and Environment to limit itself to working as an effective agency in policy formulation, coordination and facilitation, as well as acting as a bridge between the all-powerful EPC and the various government sectoral agencies. Decentralization rather than concentration of authority and responsibilities within a well-defined jurisdiction, with agreed norms, standards and guidelines on the protection and preservation of the environment, is likely to prove more functional and operational in the present circumstances.
Thus an analysis of the existing mechanisms reveals the following: (a) EPC is an advisory body with no legal authority, whereas the Ministry of Population and Environment is to be the executive organ; (b) in spite of the EPA, the Ministry of Population and Environment will only be able to fully exercise its authority if it is so designated in the forthcoming bylaws; and (c) even if that designation is made, the Ministry of Population and Environment and other ministries concerned will need to be equipped with the necessary manpower and analytical facilities.