Summary of the Consultation Workshop
On 10 December, approximately 25 participants including the current and former officials from the CEA, officials from technical agencies, experts engaged in EIA from ADB, Japan, and AECEN Secretariat gathered to share their knowledge and experience from EIA implementation and identify challenges and needs in Sri Lanka.
The Workshop was started with the welcome remarks by Dr. Saranga Alahapperuma, Director General of the CEA, the host organization of the Workshop; followed by the introduction to the ADB’s approach, support, and activities on environmental safeguards by Dr. Palitha Bandara, Environmental Safeguards Specialist from the ADB Sri Lanka office. DR. Bandara emphasized the ADB’s commitment to the environmental safeguards issues in the region and introduced the ADB’s Safeguards Policy published in 2009 as the key document for the ADB. The document provides a fundamental guidance to the implementation of the safeguards including the assessment of potential impacts, existing level of assessment, and information disclosure to ultimately integrate environmental consideration into project decision making. Dr. Peter King, Head of the AECEN secretariat, gave an introduction to AECEN’s mission as well as its past achievements and presented the overview of twinning partnership between Sri Lanka and Japan, the objectives of the Consultation Workshop, and the role of AECEN secretariat. The session was moderated by Ms. Ramani Ellepola, former Director General of the CEA.
In Session 1, four presentations were made to introduce and understand the current status of the EIA implementation in Sri Lanka. The session was moderated by Ms. Ramani Ellepola, former Director General of the CEA. Ms. Nilmini Attanayake, Deputy Director, the CEA presented the overall EIA system in Sri Lanka. She briefly touched upon the history of EIA system development in Sri Lanka, highlighting its landmark law of the National Environmental Act enacted in 1998. Under the Act, only prescribed projects are subject to the EIA and to be approved by 23 public appropriate agencies (PAAs). The EIA process comprises of three main steps: screening, scoping and impact assessment. The scoping process determines whether or not a project is required the initial environmental examination or full-scale EIA. The submitted EIA report, which are usually prepared by the consulting firms, are reviewed by technical evaluation committee under the relevant technical ministries/agencies. It was noted that an environmental management and monitoring plan (EMMP) is not required under the Act. Ms. Attanayake noted that the public consultation results are often missing in the EIA report.
Ms. Kanthi De Silva, Director of the EIA, CEA, presented the Sri Lanka’s experience and challenges in EIA based on her 20 years of engagement in the EIA work. She noted that the EIA can be a tool for sustainable development and provide opportunities for the locals to raise their concerns. She summarized major challenges in four categories: (i) quality of EIA report, (ii) poor review process, (iii) insufficient monitoring, and (iv) process issues. For (i), the CEA often founds some EIA reports are not focused on the main issues nor presented in a systematic fashion and suffers from the lack of reliable baseline data or use of improper methodologies. Poorly-prepared terms of references (ToRs) for scoping exercise by the technical ministries/agencies in charge often result in poor EIA reporting. For (ii), the technical evaluation committees (TEC) sometimes lack objectivity or favor their own industries/agencies over the national benefits especially in the case of state-led projects. There is no licensing system for consultants that prepare the EIA reports. For (iii), EMMP is not required by the law and enforcement is weak. For (iv), which is also related to (iii) above, the PAA’s objectivity is sometime questionable. In response to the question what would be the top priority issue in EIA, Ms. De Silva noted that the EIA evaluation process would need more independent review process. Dr. Peter King noted that in the case of Korea, the Korea Environment Institute (KEI) has a dedicated division to review all the EIA reports. A participant who used to work for CEA noted that it is difficult to change the law but the CEA could introduce informal ministerial-level guidelines for appropriate scoping exercise.
Mr. KGS Jayawardena, Deputy Director, EIA, CEA presented EIA training and capacity development for priority sectors in Sri Lanka. He noted that the EIA process can be strengthened from multiple aspects such as (i) legislative process, (ii) institutional arrangement, (iii) procedural improvement, and (iv) technical capacity; however, (iv) technical is often found difficult in Sri Lanka because the country is not exposed enough to newer technologies. Developing guidelines could be considered by key environmental factors (air, water, noise, etc.), by industrial sectors, or specifically for preparing EIA reports. He also noted that Sri Lanka would benefit from having such guidelines for key industries (oil, gas, chemical, mineral processing), waste sector (incineration, e-waste, hazardous waste), energy sector (LNG and renewable energy), and transport sector. Dr. Peter King suggested that Sri Lanka considers the CEA certifies EIA reviewers. A participant expressed the need for regular training courses for the government officials.
Ms. Kusala Mahalekame, Assistant Director, EIA, CEA presented the application of strategic environmental assessment (SEA) in Sri Lanka. SEA has been employed for three pilot cases in Sri Lanka to assess the impacts of policies/programs and to help decision making on development plan. Not all of these cases were SEA in a strict sense, but the process generated recommendations for sustainable development plans. She presented examples in decision making including: determination of natural reserve, relocation of coal plant, and identification of eco-tourism site. Participants noted that SEA can be a good tool for development master plan; SEA process may need a powerful ministry to oversee to cross-sectoral issues. Dr. Peter King noted that the land plan system substitutes for SEA in Singapore.
In Session 2, two presentations were delivered by two Japanese experts. The session was moderated by Dr. Daisuke Sano, ACCEN secretariat.
Ms. Naoko Maruyama, Consultant, ERM presented the EIA and capacity development in Japan on behalf of the Ministry of the Environment, Japan. She presented several major EIA triggers by the Japanese EIA law and noted that a wind power generator was recently added in the list in response to the publics’ concerns (noise, birds). In 2011 Japan amended the EIA law to include the process of a primary environmental consideration and the impact mitigation measures (EMMP) prior and posterior to the screening process, respectively. The amendment also included additional opportunities for the general public as well as the Ministry of the Environment to make comments in the process. Japan’s EIA system is supplemented by th existing related pollution control and conservation laws. Ordinances by the sub-national governments also supplement the national EIA law, but the duplication of assessment processes is prohibited. She also explained three major training opportunities by the Ministry of the Environment, the Japan Association of Environment Assessment (JEAS), and the Japan Society for Impact Assessment (an academic circle). A question was asked if Japan is employing SEA and Ms. Maruyama responded that Japan does not have an SEA process in a strict sense yet, but there are some introductory cases where the concept of SEA were employed at the prefectural level.
Mr. Yohei Suzuki, Consultant, ERM, made a presentation on improving the EIA system and shared some perspective, experience and strategies. After presenting the major aspects involved in the EIA implementation such as enforcement, technical matters, information disclosure, stakeholder engagement, and organizational arrangement, he summarized several identified challenges in Sri Lanka from the morning session. In Japan’s EIA is implemented in tandem with the environmental laws and EIA reports are circulated to technical agencies for the review. He emphasized the importance of the baseline survey and noted that the project proponents usually use the secondary data available to the public and supplement with the primary data collected for the assessment. He also noted that the EIA has been also evolved together with the economic development in Japan, especially urban issues. The Information disclosure is considered as an effective tool for consensus building. Lastly, he shared the list of international EIA standards useful for strengthening EIA implementation. Ms. Kanthi De Silva asked if Japan considers social impacts and he responded that it generally does not.
In Session 3, Sri Lankan participants identified the priority areas/needs that this twinning project should address. The session was moderated by Dr. Peter King. With the presentation on expected outcome and suggested outputs from the twinning project presented by Dr. Daisuke Sano and the list of major challenges prepared by Mr. Suzuki, the participants voted for the issues that are most important. The results indicated that the Sri Lankan participants considered that the exposure/understanding to the new technologies and associated capacity development are most critical, followed by the improvement of the EIA review process and EMMP. The participants also expressed their interest in setting up an association for EIA implementing firms such as the JEAS. The session also discussed possible activities/site visit for the selected participants to the observation tour planned in Japan (mentor country). Mr. Suzuki and Ms. Maruyama shared their views on what kind of activities can Japan offer in response to the needs identified in the session. The participants also re-acknowledged the importance of the EMMP and Dr. King noted that it is desirable to embed it in the contract that assessment conducting firms will be given. The participants expressed their interest in the EIA for new technologies in the energy sector (coal, wind power generator, LNG). A participant also expressed an interest in improving accreditation for EIA report preparing consulting firms.
Organizers thanked the participants for active discussion and the workshop was closed.