Principle 11: Fair, consistent and proportionate responses

Re-Evaluating and Continuous Assessment of Biodiversity Issues and the EIA: The Case of Vietnam

Date posted: 
Nov 20 2009

The Environment Impact Assessment is ideally an integral component of a project's planning process. It identifies potential risks given the present scenario and the perceived impact of the project's activities. Given this, the EIA gives recommendations given the set of information available during the time of the assessment. However, once the project takes place, a review of the EIA is seldom made. There is a need to revisit the EIA especially if perceived environment conditions change.

Responsible Party: 
Enforcement Agency
I. Objectives or Impact: 

There is a tendency for the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) process to focus primarily on technical aspects (e.g. pollution created, emission). However, the process sometimes misses on actual environment concerns will surely be affected by the project, like relocation or biodiversity. Worse, concerns on economic development often takes the prime seat while issues related with conservation and biodiversity are placed aside. The problem is that environmental damages might prove to be irreversible. Also, biodiversity issues that seem to be trivial at initial glance might become big risks as an economic activity or project progresses. The case of cement manufacturing in Ha Tien Plane in Vietnam, a critical ecosystem, displayed the need to continually assess impacts of economic activities on biodiversity. A change in the treatment of the EIA, from being a mere procedural step in project implementation to a guide that advises and gives warning to potential impacts, is highlighted.

II. Description of the Good Practice (Outputs): 

A Swiss-based cement company, Holcim, approached the International Finance Corporation (IFC) about a proposed greenfield cement plant in Hon Chong in 1993. Around that time, Vietnam was experiencing economic growth, and was opening its country to foreign investment. Specifically in the cement industry, the supply of cement from two initial operators was already being overtaken by demand. The proposed site of Holcim was highly scenic, which actually supports tourism activities. However, the view then was that the area appeared to be unproductive. In fact, the site did not appear to meet the IFC’s natural habitat standard. Interestingly, the initial EIA undertaken for the proposed cement factory noted that there is little wildlife in the area and lack of birdlife. The EIA also focused on technical issues (e.g. emission), with modest attention to biodiversity. Issues on biodiversity were raised but it was concluded that the need for cement was of prime importance relative to conservation. With the operation of the cement plant, it was realized that construction and related costs were higher than expected. Also, the production volumes were lower compared with the projected volumes. At the same time, the Asian Crisis halted the growth of the cement industry. Around that time as well, stakeholders slowly learned and realized the biological value of the affected area. Simultaneous with the cement plant’s operation, the IFC revisited the adequacy of the earlier EIA. It was learned that the landscape of the area is one of the world’s most threatened karst landscape. The biodiversity value of the area also changed due to what was happening in the other parts of the region. Grassland habitats were lost throughout the region due to the expansion of shrimp farming and rice cultivation. As grasslands slowly disappear in other areas, the endangered Eastern Sarus Crane (the world’s tallest flying bird), congregated in larger numbers in other areas, specifically the Holcim Vietnam site.

III. Outcomes or Results: 

Given the “change” in the biodiversity value of the site, Holcim and the government were placed in a predicament. The government’s priority was still economic development. At the same time, Holcim holds mineral rights on the limestone of the site. In 1999, the IFC commissioned a biodiversity assessment of the site, and the entire Hon Chong region. The assessment recognized the need for an integrated conservation initiative, encompassing the adjoining limestone, wetland, and sandstone. Though Holcim recognized that the concern is region-wide and not limited to its site, it realized that its corporate image could be affected. The biodiversity issues that emerged prompted Holcim Vietnam and the IFC to form a partnership with the International Crane Organization. Their primary aim was to demonstrate that maintaining the natural habitat could be more economically valuable than pursuing competing activities like shrimp and rice cultivation. An area (Phu My) was finally identified as an area for conservation management. It showed to be economically viable for the area. Other small-scale industries from conservation management also emerged like handicrats-making. The development of the area won the financial support from the World Bank Development Marketplace. Local government support is also strong for the conservation management efforts in the area. The linkage between IFC and the Industrial Bank started in 2004, with the IFC’s initial investment of US$ 52 million on the bank. The first-phase of the risk-sharing arrangement in 2006 made possible the creation of a facility that has been used to leverage a portfolio of US$ 65.7 million of energy efficiency equipment and project loans for small and medium-scale projects. Projects typically pursued were industrial boiler retrofitting, wasted heat recovery, co- and tri-generation projects for district heating, power saving, and optimization of industrial energy use. The initial efforts of the IFC and Industrial Bank attracted two prominent international co-investors, namely the Hang Seng Bank of Hong Kong and Singapore’s GIC Special Investments. In March 2008, participating banks in the CHUEE program approved 70 energy efficiency loans, with a loan portfolio of US$ 243 million. Interestingly, projects financed by the loans contribute to a net annual reduction of greenhouse gases of 4.3 million tons.

A. Policy Framework: 

There is a strong need to review how the EIA is conducted, particularly on the issue of securing commitment to the measures prescribed by the EIA. Also, regulatory and implementation polices that make the review of EIAs possible should be in place, with the fact that economic activities can surely have unforeseen impacts.

B. Budgetary and Financial Requirements: 

The concerned government agency needs to set up a fund that will finance regular review of selected EIAs, particularly large-scale and huge-impact projects.

C. Human Resources: 

There is a need to have a strong monitoring staff that traces whether the stakeholders comply with the measures identified by the EIA and the commitments given by respective parties. Also, given that economic activity could have irreversible consequences, the environment agency should have skills that would allow them to take preventive actions.

D. Material Resources: 

Given that a preventive action is the ideal stance, resources that would enable the regulator to track commitments and performance are necessary. A sole unit, equipped with a good data base system, is required in tracking industry actions.

E. Institutional Support: 

Partnerships with the local government and other stakeholders (NGOs, civic groups) are required to continuously keep track of biodiversity concerns. In the case of Holcim, the clamor for a review of the EIA came from the scientific community.

On-line Posting of the Transporter Capabilities in the Philippines

Date posted: 
Nov 13 2008

The main objective is to drive out of business unscrupulous Toxic and Hazardous Wastes (THW) transporters with fake or expired licenses.

Responsible Party: 
Enforcement Agency
I. Objectives or Impact: 

The main objective is to drive out of business unscrupulous Toxic and Hazardous Wastes (THW) transporters with fake or expired licenses.

Sector/subsector:

The good practice addresses the transport and movement of THW, minimize potential accidents from THW, and reduce the quantity of illegally dumped in the environment, and discourage illegal recovery and re-use of dumped THW.

II. Description of the Good Practice (Outputs): 

Transporters of THW are required to undergo training on the documentation, emergency procedures and impacts of various THW on human health and the environment. The trucks for hauling must be provided with first aid facilities, equipment and chemicals necessary for clean up in case of emergencies, and special signage identifying the type, quantity, nature , first aid and emergency procedures. Due to stringent licensing requirements, a number of THW transporters with fake or expired licenses proliferate in the market THW transporters with fake manifest are also common.

The capability of THW transporters, the expiration dates, truck fleet, licensed drivers and personnel are posted in the internet. The administrative procedure was also revised, putting on the THW the responsibility of consulting the Environment Management Bureau website to check the validity of the THW transporter license , the capabilities and limitations imposed on the license and the responsible person to contact to prevent third parties from using another transporter’s license. The THW generator is equally responsible with the illegal THW transporter.

III. Outcomes or Results: 

Within 30 days after the new regulations and website was available, more than 100 new applications or renewal of THW transporter license were received and an unknown number of illegal transporter went out of business.

IV. Essential Elements for Success: 

Policy Framework: Enabling Policy, Regulation, Inter-agency/Multiparty Agreements

The Administrative Order governing the responsibility of the THW generator during transport was modified to make them equally responsible if the THW transporter is unlicensed. Prior to this amendment, the THW generator could claim that he had been tricked into believing that the THW transporter is duly licensed and even goes to provide a copy of the fake license provided by the transporter with the authority to transport the THW. An additional copy of theTHW transporter permit is submitted to the IT unit for posting in the webpage.

Human Resources and Skills

The main personnel skill required is knowledge to update the webpage periodically.
Material and Resources

Computer, webpage and server.

Institutional Support

The server was provided by a World Bank grant.

V. Further Information: 

References and Publications:

Revised guidelines for the licensing of THW transporters
http://www.emb.gov.ph

Auditing System for Toxic and Hazardous Wastes (THW) Treatment and Storage Facilities in the Philippines

Date posted: 
Nov 13 2008

THW storage and treatment facilities are periodically audited to assure that the wastes are properly stored, treated and disposed. The objective of the practice is to maintain an on-line record of the THW received, exported, treated, reused and recycled to facilitate auditing. Online and real time recording, together with the manifest system, minimizes fudging of inventory records and makes retrieval of necessary records convenient.

Responsible Party: 
Enforcement Agency
I. Objectives or Impact: 

THW storage and treatment facilities are periodically audited to assure that the wastes are properly stored, treated and disposed. The objective of the practice is to maintain an on-line record of the THW received, exported, treated, reused and recycled to facilitate auditing. Online and real time recording, together with the manifest system, minimizes fudging of inventory records and makes retrieval of necessary records convenient.

Sector/subsector:

The practice covers THW storage and treatment facilities.

II. Description of the Good Practice (Outputs): 

When the THW storage treatment facility receives the wastes, it returns a manifest confirming that it has received the wastes. Relevant data, such as the quantity and type of wastes, are automatically registered. The inventory of the facility is also automatically upgraded. The system also informs the authorities regarding outbound flows of the facility, like exporting, treatment, and selling of wastes. Similar with inbound flows, the inventory is also automatically adjusted.

At the same time, the system also recognizes tasks or flows outside the set conditions. For example, if the quantity or quality of wastes reported as being treated, re-used or recycle is outside its capabilities, a warning is flashed on the log and the inventory is not adjusted. When wastes are exported, the inventory is adjusted only when the wastes have been manifested as loaded or accepted by the shipper.

Monitoring of flows is also made easy by the system. When the inspectors audit the THW storage and/or treatment facility, a real-time inventory log guides the inspectors.

III. Outcomes or Results: 

Under the existing system, there is little guidance to the inspector on the quantity of wastes delivered, shipped out or whether the wastes are illegally dumped. Given this new system, it is difficult for the THW storage and/or disposal facility to dump the wastes as it has to account for the physical presence of the THW. One of the shortcomings of the system is that it does not differentiate treatment, reuse, and recycling of THW, with actual withdrawal and/or illegal disposal of the THW. However, this practice is a significant improvement of the existing practice.

IV. Essential Elements for Success: 

Policy Framework: Enabling Policy, Regulation, Inter-agency/Multiparty Agreements

The reporting obligations of the THW storage and/or disposal facilities were revised to reflect the record keeping and auditing requirements.

Human Resources and Skills

The system requires personnel skilled in encoding the THW delivered by the transporter. A dedicated staff is also necessary to retrieve the periodic reports on the quantity of wastes exported, treated, reused and recycled. In the case of THW recycled and reused, a staff is also needed to issue the notification to the buyer that they have purchased specific quantities and quality of materials derived from specific THW.

Material and Resources

The main requirement is an Internet connection in each of the THW storage and disposal facilities. The environmental management bureau must have a server, Internet connections and sufficient terminals for the encoding of the data.

Institutional Support

The development of the software was provided by the UNDP while the World Bank provided the server.

Planning, Scheduling or Sequencing of Activities (if applicable)

V. Further Information: 

References and Publications:

Revised DAO
Inogy Consultants

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