On 28th May 2018, Natural Justice took part in the second validation stakeholders workshop on the Draft Environmental (Strategic Assessment, Integrated Impact Assessment and Audit) Regulations 2017 organised by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) and WWF at the Intercontinental Hotel. The meeting brought together over one hundred stakeholders from the civil society, private sector, government and tertiary institutions. The process of reviewing, repealing and enacting a new regulation started in April 2017 when the public was invited to provide comments to the draft regulations. Natural Justice submitted its comments recommending, among many others, the need to strengthen the public participation requirements and provisions.
The second validation meeting saw a number of issues raised including:
- Environmental Audits: the audit process has been marred by governance challenges yet the draft regulations do not address this issue. The importance for the draft regulation to address this gap by providing guidance on how environmental audits should be undertaken was stressed.
- Public participation: participants noted the measures in place to prove that public participation had been undertaken in projects were inadequate. Examples of lead EIA expert’s engagement in unprofessional conduct, such as faking signatures, were provided. Further, concerns were also raised that large numbers of projects in specific areas is leading to public fatigue to meaningfully engaging in participation processes. To address these issues it was suggested that planning at the initial stages of projects to outline public participation be undertaken. It was also strongly suggested that NEMA puts in place accountability measures for ensuring that pubic participation is done satisfactorily and to the spirit and letter of the law.
- Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA): although the draft regulation is progressive in this regard, it is rather unfortunate that the importance of undertaking strategic environmental assessment on Policies Programmes and Plans (PPPs) is still largely unknown and unappreciated to a great extent. Also, the draft regulation gives a blanket application of SEAs to all PPPs and it was suggested that there be further clarification as to the specific types of PPPs requiring these studies.
- Code of ethics: the rise in the number of rogue lead and associate experts is alarming. In addition, the increase in corruption among the EIA experts and NEMA officials was highlighted by some participants at the meeting. It was suggested that there is a need to have disciplinary measures and penalties, such as revoking of practicing licenses to prevent or curtail the recent trends.
NEMA and WWF are now required to collate and incorporate all the comments provided, and thereafter hold final validation workshop in July/August. We shall keep you posted on the dates in the coming days.