With only about 15 percent of rural households having access to electricity, expanding hydropower is a top priority in Nepal. To develop new or expanded hydropower systems, the Nepal Ministry of Environment (MOE) is working to strengthen its systems and capabilities for conducting environmental impact assessments (EIA). Priority challenges of the Ministry include: (1) improving the quality of EIA reports; (2) processing EIA reports within the stipulated time frame; (3) creating accurate baseline data; (4) ensuring quality of consultants; and (5) building human resource capabilities.
To strengthen current EIA policies and practices in Nepal, the Asian Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Network (AECEN), with support from the USAID Environmental Cooperation-Asia (ECO-Asia) project, facilitated a twinning arrangement between the Malaysia Department of Environment (DOE) and MOE. The World Bank is also collaborating in the partnership under their Nepal Strategic Environmental and Social Assessment of the Hydropower Sector (SESA) initiative. Under this partnership, Nepal MOE and Malaysia DOE partnered to develop an EIA consultant registration scheme based on DOE’s experience in running a similar program. The twinning partnership included consultation workshops, exchanges of information and materials and a comprehensive, intensive training conducted by the Environmental Institute of Malaysia (EIMAS) for senior officials from relevant agencies from Nepal.
As a result of the dialogue and training, in 2010 Nepal developed draft criteria for registration of EIA consultants and a proposed orientation and training program for EIA practitioners under the registration scheme. Both drafts have been presented in a broad stakeholder consultation and have been endorsed to all relevant ministries for further discussions and refinement. In 2011, through continued AECEN twinning with Malaysia and cooperation under SESA, experts from Tribhuvan University will assist the Nepal MOE in developing the related manuals and materials to fully implement the scheme and build critical capacity.