Demystifying EIA and SEA reviews: CO-SEED releases practical tools for the public

WWF and civil society organizations discussed problems with environmental impact studies and presented specially-designed checklists to ease study reviews on a recent roundtable in Doboj.

DOBOJ  – WWF Adria and Udruga Dinarica organized a roundtable to address common problems in commenting on Environmental Impact Assessments and Strategic Environmental Assessments in Bosnia and Herzegovina. All throughout our country developments that are negatively impacting the environment are going forward without comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessments and Strategic Environmental Assessments – which are intended to help decision makers make environmentally friendly and socially concious decisions. These decisions are also being made without inclusive public participation. Also new scientific research is rarely conducted to determine the impact of new developments, and data used is often incomplete and in many cases more than 25 years old. Such data can not be considered relevant for environmental decision making, considering climate change impacts over the past few decades.

To strengthen the capacity of civil society organizations and the interested public to more effectively participate in environmental decision-making processes and identify and comment on data-gaps, the Civil society acts for environmentally sound socio-economic development (CO-SEED) project recently created a set of user-friendly checklists. The checklists – ‘A Checklist for the Review of Strategic Environmental Studies’and ‘A Checklist for the Review of Environmental Impact Assessment Studies’ were designed to facilitate the process of reviewing and commenting on various types of environmental impact studies. One of the goals of the round table in Doboj was to present these checklists and also provide a forum for civil society, media, and government officials to openly discuss challenges related to these studies.

"Environmental studies are often very extensive, long documents. Though there are a number of guidence documents already available, the goal of these documents are to facilitate the preparation and revision of environmental studies by professionals. As such, most of them are directed to an audience of experts and legislators, with only limited guidence for those who are not experts in the field but still want to share their opinions in the best possible way. For those who do not deal with environmental assessments professionally, such as most civil society organizations and members of local communities, it is difficult to analyize the information presented in such studies, and thus to provide constructive feedback. This can lead to a misguided perception that civil society and local communities are not credible partners. As a result, their comments and opinions are rejected or not sought during public consulations. To help change this, we have specifically developed the checklists for an audience of civil society organizations and the interested public." Said Đorđe Stefanović, the CO-SEED project leader in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

"It often happens that environmental impact studies are not available on the internet or in electronic form. Time and again we have lost days and spent money traveling to municipalities to request hard-copy versions of environmental impact studies. Even when we request these documents in person we often get the answer that we can not make copies, but can only review them on-site. This is absurd and even impossible when it comes to studies that can be hundreds of pages long. Although the government bodies responsible for conducting these proceedings require the applicants to submit drafts of the studies electronically, these same documents are not readily available. As a result, citizens and civil society organizations have difficulty in reviewing the drafts, engaging outside experts, and preparing and submitting high-quality comments in time. Checklists can help civil society actors to accelerate their analysis, and without the need for deeper professional reviews. By using checklists the non-professional reviewers can identify shortcomings and can then submit their own remarks, suggestions, and comments in a shorter period of time, " added Viktor Bjelić from the Center for Environment in Banja Luka.

More than 20 representatives from civil society organizations, the media, entity ministries, and Elektroprivreda Bosnia and Herzegovina participated in the round table. During the discussion, the participants specifically highlighted the lack of spatial planning documentation. This directly jeopardizes the quality of these studies. Participants also highlighted the need for a greater number of experts in the government institutions responsible for issuing permits; and that they receive adequate and ongoing professional training.

Click on the CO-SEED website for the English verisons of the CO-SEED Checklists, below at:

The Checklists are based on the European Commission’s ‘Guidance on EIA: EIS Review’ from June 2001, which was reviewed in detail.

WWF, and a total of six partners, are implementing the CO-SEED project in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey; with WWF Adria providing an advisory role.