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Главная страницаPower EngineeringAbout companyCompany NewsStatic environmental assessment

Strategic environmental assessment. Prospects implementation in Belarus

Currently, the international community aim efforts at solving environmental problems. Environmental legislation is made more rigorous, preventive measures to minimize the negative effects of environmental pollution and depletion of natural resources are implemented, environmental matters are taken into account in practical decision-making to achieve stable socio-economic development of society.
To reduce environmental stress it is necessary constantly assess the effects of environmental impact, both actual and planned business activities on the environment and look for optimal solutions to prevent the possible adverse effects, which consequences are adverse changes in the environment. Integration of environmental components in the decision-making process at the stage of planning and design is much cheaper than the activities undertaken to neutralize and compensate economic damage.
Since any business activity associated with the use of natural resources and in some extent is characterized by the impact on the environment, so is economically feasible to analyze its environmental hazard in the stages of strategic documents and thoroughly evaluate all available alternatives for development.

As shown in international practice, when solving such problems Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) demonstrates a high efficiency 

Environmental assessment could be carried out at individual project level (environmental assessment) and at the level of "strategic" document "(strategic environmental assessment) (Figure 1).

 

  
SEA aimed to assess the effects of environmental impact (including impacts on human health) developed documents and the choice of an acceptable alternative of development that improves the quality and effectiveness of the planning system, as well as increase of public confidence to decision-making process.
The strategic documents subject to SEA are territorial or industry development plans, programs, policies, strategies, etc. Thanks to SEA at a higher level (program or plan development) lays the foundation for the environmental assessment of projects.
Currently, the most important legislative document, which defines the minimum general procedures for SEA - is the European Directive 2001/42/EC on the assessment of the environmental consequences of certain plans and programs. The Directive spelled out a procedure for systematic, preventive, based on environmental assessment of projects and open to the participation of various stakeholders and the public of the SEA procedure. Much attention in the Directive is paid to the development of an environmental report. SEA Directive does not include consideration of legislation.
Main provisions of the SEA Directive formed the basis of the Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment to the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (hereafter - the Protocol on SEA). Difference between the Protocol and the Directive is that (1) The protocol includes legislation as objects of SEA, (2) special attention in the Protocol is paid to assessment of the impact on public health, and (3) The Protocol prescribes necessity for public participation and consultation with the stakeholders in the process of SEA.
By now, considerable material for the SEA has been accumulated, numerous monographs and guidelines manual on the implementation of SEA have been published, the most effective approaches and methodology of the SEA and public involvement have been discussed.

In CIS countries, SEA is considered as a new assessment instrument for the strategic documents, therefore in our countries are carried out projects to build capacity for the effective implementation of SEA, pilot projects are realized to gain experience of SEA (SEA Protocol: Initial Capacity Development in the Selected Former USSR Countries, 2006), [www.ecorazvitie.by].
According to the Protocol on SEA, the strategic environmental assessment is "assessment of possible environmental impacts, including impacts on public health, which involves determination the scope of the assessment and preparation of an environmental report, public involvement and consultation, taking into account the environmental report and the results of public participation and consultation during the development of a plan or a program" (article 2, paragraph 6).

The main purpose of SEA is to take into account environmental aspects in the design and implementation of strategic documents on the basis of the principles of sustainable development. The importance of SEA is explained by the need of incorporating environmental aspects in planning for more effective management decisions. In international practice, SEA is considered as an efficient instrument to achieve sustainable development, as SEA requires consideration of environmental issues in close connection with socio-economic objectives, taking into account the interests of present and future generations (Good practice guidance for development co-operation, 2006).


The main principles of SEA are:
• the priority of environmental issues;
• responsibility for the environmental consequences arising from the decision-making at all levels;
• demonstrate openness in environmental policy from government authorities;
• consistency and process approach;
• comprehensive assessment (consideration of direct, indirect, synergistic consequences);
• prediction of changes in the ecological situation in the long term;
• consideration of environmental issues in the decision-making.

The main functions of the SEA:
• Preventive (application of preventive measures by taking into account environmental aspects in the early stages of forecasting and planning);
• Coordinating (coordination of all parts of the organizational management structure that facilitates more effective decision-making and sustainable development);
• Informing (involvement of the competent government bodies, stakeholders and the public to participate in the planning process).

Specificity of SEA is that it is at a very early stage of planning deals with the regulation of conscious human impacts on the environment to satisfy their economic needs, subject to the achievement of sustainable development. Decision-makers in the SEA process get additional information about the possible negative impact on the environment and human health and planned actions. 

Proceeding from the aforenamed, the main tasks of SEA are:
• Predict the potential environmental consequences at the design stage;
• Assess the extent to which planned environmental objectives;
• Provide sources of environmental information in developing plans / programs;
• Develop alternatives to some of the planned program activities;
• Provide feedback to the interested public.

Each country chooses a strategy for SEA according to the current planning system and the existing potential. According to most experts of SEA, there is no single ideal approach to SEA in developing plans / programs. However, it is obvious that the retrospective SEA conducted separately from the development of plans / programs is the least effective and the least likely to provide a sufficient basis for the fulfilment of commitments under the Protocol on SEA. Partial or full integration of SEA into the development of plans / programs is a suitable scope the fulfilment of commitments under the Protocol on SEA. The choice of approach depends on political will and the specific conditions of development of each plan / program. In some cases, partial integration may be more effective than full and vice versa.

The Republic of Belarus is considering the possibility of accession to the Protocol on SEA to the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context.

 

Figure 1 Kinds of assessment

Formed in the Republic of Belarus, legislative and regulatory framework consider as objects of strategic environmental assessment first of all, state, regional and sectoral programs, as well as diagrams, projections, programs and strategies of territorial development, implementation of which may have an impact on the environment and human health, including in a transboundary context (A Guide for Decision Makers, 2010). It should be noted that certain elements of SEA in Belarus have already been applied. Since the development of strategic documents such as the National Strategy for Sustainable Socio-Economic Development of Belarus until 2020, the program and projections of socio-economic development it is obligatory to take into account environmental aspects and development of the section " Rational use of natural resources and environmental conservation". In the Republic of Belarus has also laid down by law to perform certain environmental requirements for certain specific objects, which relate to strategic environmental assessment. Thus, the Law on State Ecological Expertise regulates the State Ecological Expertise (SEE) for urban development projects of general planning, special planning, detailed planning, architectural design of building development; projects of territorial complex schemes of rational use of natural resources and environmental protection; concepts, projections, programs and schemes of industry development, implementation of which connected with the use of natural resources and (or) could have an impact on the environment.
Despite the fact that the elements of a strategic environmental assessment are already in the practice of development of plans / programs, SEA is a new process for Belarus and knowledge of SEA among experts is not enough.

Currently in the Republic of Belarus is forming the capacity to implement the provisions of the Protocol on SEA: training of specialists, practical experience of SEA, examines the experience of preparation of the SEA reports, a database of experts. United Nations Development Programme supports development of potential under which was implemented the project "Building capacity for Strategic Environmental Assessment and environmental conventions implementation in Belarus". Special attention was paid to the training of Belarusian specialists [www.ecorazvitie.by].
Within the framework of the project has been prepared the guidance with the object of increase understanding of the benefits of SEA and SEA procedures among decision makers and responsible for the development of strategic documents, which have led by specialist of SLC “ENECA”. This informative guide provides approaches to SEA in accordance with international practice in different countries. The main emphasis is on analysis of possibilities of integration of the SEA process in the system of forecasting and planning of the Republic of Belarus [www.ecorazvitie.by].

The attractiveness of SEA for its implementation in the Republic of Belarus:
- Improvement of the algorithm and organization of plan / program development;
- Formation of a development team, involving specialists from research and design companies that will facilitate the formation of multidisciplinary teams;
- Increase the validity, complexity and environmental safety program activities;
- Strengthening the coordination between sectoral and regional governments in the formation of plans / programs that will contribute to avoid duplication of strategic decisions in the process of their implementation;
- Improving coordination of plans / programs with other ministries and agencies, including the health authorities;
- Formation of a data bank of baseline information that can be used both for the development of strategic decisions and for SEA;
- Increase openness in reporting on the development and implementation of strategic decisions (plans / programs);
- Replacement of a formal approach to the monitoring for more qualitative process using objective indicators of the effectiveness of implementation of plans / programs.



    Ирина Усова  
   Эколог ОДО "ЭНЭКА"

Thus, the Republic of Belarus considers the possibility of accession to the Protocol on SEA, and forms the potential for successful implementation of the provisions of this regulatory document.

 

Literature:
1. Протокол по стратегической экологической оценке к Конвенции об оценке воздействия на окружающую среду в трансграничном контексте (http://www.unece.org/env/eia/sea_protocol_r.html)
2.  EC, European Commission (2001), “Directive no 2001/42/EC on the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment”, available at