Public Consultation (1)
In general, public consultation is suspected to extend the projects licensing process leading to delays and more costs. Therefore, Developers usually try to avoid or minimize conflicts with the public by reducing information about the project impact factors, the likely environmental effects and projects alternatives. On the other side, public consultation at an early stage of the EIA process is very important and a core factor in the EIA regulations in all countries with long term EIA experiences. Reasons for this importance are as follows:
- comprehensive information of the public concerning the projects purpose, kind and design and the expected changes in human and ecological environment,
- public knowledge on the local environmental conditions and possible mitigation measures in case of negative impacts,
- identification of alternatives or changes in the project proposal to reduce negative effects before they can rise as the best and most effictive way to protect environment,
- hints and comments about the plausibility of the Developers Scoping Document from an independent point of view,
- a better acceptance of the decision by the Licensing Authority.
According to the regulations of article 9 and Annex 4 EIA EP, after scoping process the Developer of the project shall organise in cooperation with the GCEA and its directorates a public consultation. Annex 4 of EIA EP provides detailed mechanism and procedures. There are two meetings intended. The first consultation is intended at an early stage, directly after Scoping. The consultation process at this time has the function to inform the public about the proposed activities and explain them.
To achieve a sufficient information of the public, the licensing authority asks the environment authority to announce the project in an proper manner in the account of the Developer by local newspaper, agricultural and community based extensions.
If the project is amended, widened or in another way extended, the same procedures are applicable.
In order to carry out the first step of public participation, there is a need for
a technical and environmental information like a description of the project in a non technical summary,
a Scoping Document made by the Developer and/or the Scoping Protocol published by the Licensing Authority.
The preparation of the Publication of the Project by the Developer should be carried out in close coordination with the Licensing Authority. The Publication should contain
(1) The Scoping Document of the Developer with at least
- an understandable technical description of the project with special regard of the main impact factors, the considered project alternatives and an explanation of the goals to be achieved by the project proposal,
- a description of the environmental factors which are likely to be changed by the project effects and their impact range,
- a description of the intended methods to predict and evaluate the effects on the environment.
(2) Information about the Public Meeting
- location and time,
- program, procedure and content,
- hints on the available documents and the access to this information (location, office hours),
- hints on the possibility to make opinions and comments about the project proposal for everyone,
- hints of the stage of the EIA process and that there will be a second public consultation after preparing the EIS.
The announcement of the Public Consultation should meet all requirements to guarantee, that all people likely to be affected by the projects impacts are well informed (for example by newspaper, public postings or internet if available) about the meeting and the role of public consultations within the EIA process. The announcement should be made at least one week in advance.
In order to reach anybody who might be affected by the projects impacts, you should suppose a maximum impact range to avoid deficiencies. Take as a basis conservative assumptions and that impact factor with the widest possible range to detect the likely affected people.
Prepare the necessary information for the public in the authorities, which have to provide the public access. Depending on the size and potential conflicts caused by the project impacts, there should be enough locations in the affected area.
The authorities should not only be prepared for the interested public by providing a room with the information and office hours but also with sufficient and trained staff, which can give support and receive the comments and opinions by the interested people.
The obtained comments and opinions to the project proposal have to be submitted to the Licensing Authority and the Developer. In preparation of the meeting, the public comments and opinions should be prooved by the Developer and the EIA Licensed Expert. Together with their statement, you should identify the main conflicts and the controversial arguments to be prepared for the discussions.
The Public Meeting is open to the interested public, so nobody should be excluded. The meeting can be omitted, if no comments or opinions about the project are made or are taken back before the meeting.
To ensure a good and efficient performance of the Public Meeting, an independent facilitator should be determined by the Licensing Authority. According to Annex 4 EIA EP, the facilitator can be
- member of the Environmental Directorate respectively the Licensing Authority,
- an EIA Licensed Expert or any other reliable and independent third party.
Job of the facilitator is mainly,
- not to be prejudiced against anyone,
- to ensure a fair and efficient meeting, giving all participants the opportunity to express their opinion in an adequate manner,
- to introduce and structure and summarize the discussion,
- to decide, if a point of issue is discussed sufficiently or if there is an additional need of information,
- to set time limits for the participants statements if necessary,
- to exclude persons who disturb the meeting in a non appropriate way,
- to close the meeting if all opinions and points of issue are negotiated.
It is not recommended to assign the responsibility for the meeting to the Developer or its EIA Licensed Expert to avoid a conflict of interests. In case of projects with a high conflict potential, the facilitator should be experienced in directing a meeting and negotiations, supported by an assistant if needful.
The main results of the meeting should be recorded in a Public Consultation Protocol, signed by the facilitator and the Licensing Authority. The protocol should be submitted to the Developer. It should be published and made available for all participants of the meeting.
In cases of expected conflicts, the meeting can be recorded on tape for protocol purposes.
If needed and depending on the results of the Public Consultation, the Scoping Protocol has to be amended by the Licensing Authority. The amended protocol should be submitted to Developer and made available to all participants of the Public Consultation.
Tools & Samples
> Public Consultation Protocol (PDF)
> Public Consultation Protocol (office document)