III. MECHANISMS FOR INTEGRATING ENVIRONMENTAL CONSIDERATIONS INTO SECTOR POLICIES AND FOR MONITORING
A. Experience and current mechanism for, and future direction of, coordination among relevant ministries and agencies
1. Environmental impact assessment process, and mechanisms for integrating environmental considerations into decision-making and coordination among relevant ministries and agencies
In recognition of the importance of EIAs, in 1984 the government made them mandatory for development projects undertaken by both the public and private sectors. In 1988, EIAs became a legal requirement for the whole country through amendments to the NEA. However, the relevant provisions only came into effect in mid-1993.
The EIA process applies only to prescribed projects which have been identified and detailed in a schedule under the provisions of Part IVC of the NEA which was published in a Gazette Extraordinary dated 24 June 1993. The basic considerations underlying the identification and listing of project activities as "prescribed projects" are sensitivity and magnitude, since those factors are likely to cause adverse impacts on the environment. Such projects include, among others, those which may have adverse impacts on natural resources and those which have a high pollution potential. Listed prescribed projects that are of relevance to the plantations sector (tea sector) include:
Implementation of EIAs is through the designated PAAs gazetted by the Minister for Environment and Forestry. At present, several ministries and other State organizations have been specified as PAAs (see chapter II). CEA is the State agency charged with the responsibility for implementing the provisions of the NEA in regard to EIAs.
The EIA practices and procedures of every PAA ensure that high-quality environmental information is available to concerned public officials, as well as other interest groups and the general public, before any decision is made and before the government makes any significant resource commitment that has an impact on the environment. To achieve that goal, a PAA must, among other things:
The sequential steps for conducting and coordinating IEEs and EIAs are illustrated by figure III. Since the timing of the process is crucial to ensuring that it is a useful tool in the decision-making process, the project proponents are advised to initiate the EIA process at a very early stage in the project cycle. (The initial steps required for public sector projects at the planning stage under the five-year public investment programme of the government have already been outlined in chapter II).
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The major steps to be taken in conducting an EIA are detailed below.
(a) Step I: preliminary information
A project proponent is required to provide PAA with preliminary information on the proposed prescribed project as early as possible. The information should include a description of the nature, scope and location of the proposed project, together with location maps and any other details required by PAA. The preliminary information should be comprehensive and, as such, may even suffice as an IEE.
(b) Step II: environmental scoping
Environmental scoping is the process of identifying important issues which must be addressed in detail by the IEE or EIA. Environmental issues involve national, regional and local government agencies and cover a broad range of responsibilities including land use, water, tourism, health, wild life etc. Thus, coordination among government agencies and with the public is crucial. This is achieved through interagency scoping meetings to identify issues, the types of analyses and the mitigatory measures that should be considered.
(c) Step III: public participation
The provision for public participation is contained in the NEA. Accordingly, notices of the availability of the IEE or EIA for the public review are published in the national newspapers. Thirty days are allowed for the public review. After comments from the public have been received, PAA will decide whether the case warrants a public hearing, and the comments are sent back to the project proponent for a review and response.
The project proponent should also make every possible effort to modify the alternatives and include proposed actions in relation to the comments received, develop and evaluate alternatives not already provided, give serious consideration to providing the supplementary information in the document and make factual corrections. All substantive comments received on the draft should be attached to the final statement.
(d) Step IV: decision-making
PAA approval may be granted for a project, subject to specified conditions or it may be refused with reason(s) being given to the project proponent. Any project proponent who has been refused approval can appeal to the Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry. An aggrieved member of the public has to seek recourse through the courts.
(e) Step V: monitoring
Project monitoring by PAA is essential to ensuring compliance with the conditions of approval and for assessing the effectiveness of the mitigatory measures. This step is discussed further in section J of this chapter.
The NEA identifies two levels in the EIA process. The first level is an IEE, where possible impacts of a prescribed project are assessed with a view to determining whether or not such impacts are significant. The second level, which is an Environmental Impact Assessment Report, is a more comprehensive document in which the alternatives to the proposed project are considered, and the option with the least impact on the environment is identified and assessed. An environmental cost benefit analysis is also carried out wherever possible. The curriculum vitae of specialists and experts engaged by the project proponent for the preparation of the Environmental Impact Assessment Report are usually annexed to enable PAA to assess their suitability for the tasks to be undertaken by them.
The responsibilities of PAAs are: