As a follow-up of the “EU Alignment Process and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)“ training and workshop conducted in December 2015, TEMA Foundation published and assessment report, aiming to reveal the problems related to the EIA processes, and to suggest solutions to solve these problems. The first three chapters of the report aims at informing stakeholder participants about the theoretical framework and history of EIA processes in addition to EU EIA legislation and alignment process. In this context, the report starts with short chapters on the theoretical and legal background of the EIA processes by three experts.
- Dr. Begüm Özkaynak, from Boğaziçi University provides insights on why and how the EIA reports are needed. Prof. Dr. Özkaynak’s conclusion is that it is crucially important for social and ecological impacts of the projects to be integrated in the EIA process; broad stakeholder involvement would make the project ecologically more feasible.
- Richard Filcak from European Environmental Bureau (EEB) examines the application of the EIA legislation in the EU. Filcak emphasizes the importance of quality control for an efficient EIA process, namely vague and general statements on the topic should be avoided in the report. Filcak also pointed out the absence of public participation in the EIA process and the need for a revision in the public feedback article of the legislation.
- TEMA Foundation’s legal consultant, Ömer Aykul, writes about the legal framework of EIA processes and their implementations, which are often problematic in Turkey. Aykul argues that the EIA processes have not made significant progress since their introduction; however both the public and legal professionals gained experience and knowledge about the 14 process throughout the years. He suggests development of a new system for spatial plans and EIA processes to be executed jointly. Also Mr. Aykul also emphasizes the absence of public participation in the process and he underlined the importance of the need of Turkey officially signing the Aarhus Convention in this context.
The second part of the report summarizes the results of the group activity organised during the workshop, where the participants were asked to comment on the theoretical framework, develop possible solutions and share their experiences regarding EIA processes. The first group activity was to identify participants’ common problems and categorize them, the identified final categories were: public participation, content, legal processes and monitoring and control. For the second group activity, the participants were asked to come up with a possible solution for one of the identified problems.
Lastly, the report presents TEMA Foundation’s Opinion and Suggestions regarding the EIA processes, which mostly apply to investment in energy, petroleum and mining sectors, which have substantial impacts on environment and public health. TEMA’s suggestions can be summarised as follows:
- EIA legislation has not made progress since its implementation in 1993; the legislation and the process need to be revised and improved especially in the following main areas: participation, time frames, monitoring/control and scope.
- Participation, especially in developed countries, enables the parties to identify and solve possible problems in the initial phase, which is both ecologically and economically beneficial for stakeholders. In addition, Turkey has not signed the Aarhus Convention (Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters), which is a significant drawback regarding the legislation on participation.
- The changes in the legislation regarding time-frames aim to shorten the given time for feedbacks, which makes it extremely 15 hard to provide a comprehensive reflection on EIA reports. These shortened assessment process may seem like an advantage from the investors’ side because according to the new time-frames, the EIA process are much shorter than the former EIA process. However shortened EIA hinder the process to run steadily. The competent authority can need much more time to evaluate the process.
- Designated screening criteria for the process should also include the following impacts of the projects: physical/socio-economic, direct/indirect, long/short term, qualitative/quantitative and cumulative. Cumulative assessment carries vital importance for EIA processes, namely the cumulative assessment should evaluate the project to be implemented in relation with the existing and planned projects in the area. The notion of evaluation of alternatives is not included in the EIA process; no-action alternative (also known as zero alternative), as an alternative should also be included in the legislation.
- The aforementioned alterations to the legislation will result in more effective implementation processes. In this context, it is important to mention that the EIA processes are executed by institutions that are funded by the investor companies, which makes the process a financial transaction, and to be perceived as a routine procedure. The EIA process should be grounded on the notion of public interest not on financial interest of institutions. Therefore EIA authorized institutions should be economically independent from the investors, as a matter of fact the authorizations should be given to individuals not institutions as it is in the EU.
- All in all, in addition to the aforementioned improvements, it is important to note that the EIA process is not a land use decision making process. Land use decisions for projects which are likely to have significant effects on environment, should be developed at regional level by spatial planning process. If the location would merely be determined through the EIA process, without 16 developing the necessary decisions within a higher scale of spatial planning, none of the suggested improvements to the legislation alone would be suffice to solve the existing problems. EIA is implemented at project level, whereas spatial planning is a decision making process for different types of land use.