The World Bank and the regional development banks, such as the African Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and Inter-American Development Bank, now have well-established EIA procedures, which apply to their lending activities and projects undertaken by borrowing countries. Although their operational policies and requirements vary in certain respects, the development banks follow a relatively standard procedure for the preparation and approval of an EIA report. This procedure generally follows the stages outlined in the flow chart shown on the verso of the topic divider. Borrowing countries are responsible for the preparation of the EIA, and this requirement possibly more than any other has influenced the introduction and development of EIA in many developing countries.
The EIA policies and arrangements of the development banks remain important, especially in countries that have weak or non-existent domestic arrangements. Recently, the World Bank has made a number of changes to make the application of its EIA procedure more systematic, notably through its linkage to new environmental and social safeguard policies. In addition, the Bankâ€™s broader environmental policy has moved from a â€˜do no harmâ€™ approach to minimise the adverse effects of its projects to the use of SEA as part of a strategy of promoting long-term sustainability and integrating environment into sector programmes and macro policies (see table below).
|Policy||Aims||Source: World Bank (1999: 8-10)|
|Do-No-Harm||To mitigate the potential adverse effects of the Bankâ€™s investment projects on the environment and vulnerable populations, EIA procedures and safeguard policies are applied. In many cases, these have contributed to better project design and environmental management plans have helped to improve project implementation.|
|Targeted Environmental Assistance||To foster long-term environmental sustainability and improve conditions in developing countries, designated Bank projects target the following areas: sustainable natural resource management, including watershed protection and biodiversity conservation; pollution management and urban environmental improvements; environmental institution and capacity building, and global environmental actions, in accordance with international environmental conventions and commitments.|
|â€˜Mainstreamingâ€™ the Environment at the Level of Policy and Programmes||To integrate environmental concerns at the macro level, the Bank has reviewed the policies of the energy, rural development and other sectors, established an environmental framework for its country assistance strategies and intends to make greater use of SEA at the programme and regional level.|
Many countries provide various types of guidance on how to apply their EIA procedure. Where the guidance is official, it is usually prepared by the overseeing authority to ensure compliance with EIA requirements. This material is aimed primarily at the proponent, government agencies and others with designated responsibility for implementation of EIA arrangements. In certain countries, procedural guidance is oriented more toward promoting EIA good practice for key stages and activities of the process, such as screening and scoping.
When procedural guidance is not available, it may be developed by reference to guidelines prepared by other countries or international agencies. There are many examples on which to draw. A useful starting point is the IIED Directory of Impact Assessment Guidelines (see references). It contains numerous entries organised by country, sector and agency, and includes guidelines issued by development banks, bilateral-donor, inter-governmental and UN organisations. (More specialised guidance on appropriate EIA methodology, and applications to particular types of projects and areas can be found in the World Bankâ€™s Environmental Assessment Sourcebook).
In many jurisdictions, more than one set of EIA procedures may apply to a proposal. The lack of coherence between the EIA requirements of various governments or agencies can lead to uncertainty, confusion and added expense for proponents. Problems commonly occur when:
- countries receive aid from a number of donors, each having its own prescribed assessment process; or
- a proposal is transboundary in nature, requiring compliance with EIA procedures in two or more countries, states or levels of government (see Espoo Convention in the EIA Wiki).
The problems of coherence of EIA for international bilateral aid were addressed by the Working Party of the Development Assistance Committee of the OECD. A practical guide on this subject was prepared to aid both officials in bilateral donor agencies and their counterparts in developing countries. It summarises the various EIA procedures used by the different agencies and provides two key means of promoting coherence:
- a framework Terms of Reference for the EIA of development assistance projects; and
- a comprehensive checklist for managing EIA.
Experience in many countries indicates that the foundations of an effective EIA system are established by the following arrangements:
- explicit basis in law and regulation;
- clear statement of objective(s) and requirement(s);
- mandatory compliance and enforcement;
- comprehensive scope of application to proposals with potentially significant impacts;
- prescribed process of steps and activities;
- provision for public consultation and access to information; and
- linkage to project authorisation, permitting and condition setting.
In terms of legal provision, aspects of specific importance include:
- broad definition of the environment and â€˜effectsâ€™;
- duty to avoid, mitigate or remedy adverse effects arising from an activity;
- requirement for an EIA report to specify mitigation measures the proponent intends to apply;
- procedural guidance on compliance and good practice in applying EIA arrangements; and
- giving reasons for decisions on proposals subject to EIA.
These components can be used to evaluate how current EIA systems measure up against accepted standards for law, policy and institutional arrangements. Where these pre-requisites are in place, they do not guarantee, in themselves, good EIA practice and effective performance. Other factors may intervene. However, where the basic arrangements are inadequate, then the EIA process is very unlikely to lead in the direction of good outcomes.
In developing countries experience has shown a number of underlying conditions will determine whether and how an EIA system is instituted. These are interrelated and reinforcing, and include:
- a functional legal regime;
- sound administration and flexible policy-making;
- stakeholder understanding of the aims of the process and its potential benefits;
- political commitment;
- institutional capacity for implementation;
- adequate technical capacity, data and information;
- public involvement; and
- financial capacity.