Eighth IGEP Dialogue: “Is India ready for Strategic Environmental Assessment?”
New Delhi, October 16, 2014
The Indo-German Environment Partnership programme organises dialogues on a wide range of topics on sustainable development and environment protection. This series of dialogues is meant to provide a space for sharing ideas and opinions, and for discussions between participants from different backgrounds – ministries, academia, NGOs, corporate, embassies, political foundations, among others.
A fruitful discussion about India’s readiness for Strategic Environmental Assessment emerged at the eighth edition of the Indo-German Environment Partnership Dialogue at GIZ Jor Bagh office. Dr Asha Rajvanshi from Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun and German landscape planner and developer Prof Dr Stefan Heiland of Technical University of Berlin were the key speakers of the dialogue. They provided indepth background knowledge on Strategic Environmental Assessments and examples of its implementation in India and Germany.
In the presentation, Dr Rajvanshi defined Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) as "systematic process for evaluating the environmental consequences of proposed policy, plan or programme initiatives in order to ensure they are fully included and appropriately addressed at the earliest appropriate stage of decision making on par with economic and social considerations." She then provided more information on the strategic planning tool and stressed its importance in investigating the environmental impact of newly proposed mines. Dr Rajvanshi concluded by mentioning both opportunities of SEA, e.g. to help realize good governance, and challenges for SEA, such-as inadequate policy framework, limited appreciation of SEA benefits, and the impression many people have that SEA is a barrier to economic growth.
Prof Dr Stefan Heiland pointed out differences between SEA in India and SEA in Europe. He then elaborated on details and specific examples of environmental reports in Germany. According to Prof Dr Heiland, SEA is an important and effective tool to identify and minimize potential negative impacts of a plan on the environment, but does not proactively improve the state of the environment. For this, one would need landscape planning. The German expert stressed the importance of an integrative overarching spatial planning instrument to coordinate sectoral plans and avoid or minimize negative side effects.
A lively interaction with the audience followed. Participants of the dialogue asked questions, raised concerns, and gave comments, especially on the role of public participation in environmental planning and the question whether it makes sense to start using SEA in India in a situation where Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA), a mandatory procedure is not being properly followed.
Shri Jairam Ramesh, former Minister of Environment and Forests graced the occasion with his presence.