An Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) predicts the environmental and social consequences that a future project/intervention might entail. It is carried out before project implementation and proposes measures to mitigate potential negative impacts. Environmental protection laws may compel you to perform an ESIA. In Jordan, for example, according to national environmental protection laws an ESIA is required to construct a wastewater treatment plant.
An ESIA has two aims: 1) to minimize or avoid adverse environmental and social effects before they occur; 2) to integrate environmental and social concerns into decision-making. Therefore, ESIAs are evaluated by whether they manage to meet these goals. Usually, the information required for an ESIA is directly related to project components such as community engagement and acceptance, technical design, construction, and operation. The ESIA process involves public participation and external consultation as well as the development and comparative assessment of alternative approaches.
See our practical experiences, lessons learned and recommendations below.
Why you should care
An ESIA is a crucial prerequisite for the implementation of a sanitation project of any size, as an environmental permit is usually required prior to construction.
What really matters: Lessons learned & recommendations
Identification and study of all relevant (local and national) environmental regulations
To implement a wastewater treatment plant in Azraq, Jordan, it is necessary to comply with Jordanian environmental regulations, particularly the Environmental Protection Law No. 6 of 2017. This law is instructive in that it makes reference to a variety of other laws, regulations, and standards that must be followed as well. As part of our feasibility study, we conducted a preliminary ESIA to assess any potential impacts and identify mitigation measures at an early stage.
Involvement of the local Ministry of Environment/ESIA Licencing Committee
The Jordan Ministry of Environment (MoE) is responsible for administering the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) that is arranging for screening, control, and follow-up on the process and its implementation, as well as for coordinating the licensing of development activities. The involvement of the local MoE is helpful when introducing and presenting the project; it is especially important in land allocation processes and in terms of community engagement and acceptance.
As part of the ESIA application process, our project team was required to present the project in all its components to the ESIA committee. This allowed the committee to understand the project more fully and gave them the opportunity to ask questions. On occasions like these, you should present clear figures, maps, and tables to avoid any confusion concerning distances, exact coordinates, etc.
According to the regulations in Jordan, external consultation is required to conduct an ESIA. As there are about 14 Jordanian consultancy firms that are appropriately credentialed, we published a tender for consultancy services to select the most qualified firm. Please note that designing and assessing this tender process requires time (roughly 2-3 months) and effort. The selected consultancy firm then got in touch with the MoE and conducted the assessment.
The main steps of the ESIA include: (1) scheduling a scoping session with the relevant stakeholders at the invitation of the MoE; (2) identifying key Valued Environmental Components (VECs) and determining the environmental impacts associated with each VEC; (3) developing the final – and preferably annotated – Terms of Reference (ToRs).
The last step of this process consists in delivering the final draft of the ESIA report to the ESIA Technical Committee at the MoE, which includes representatives from other relevant ministries. The MoE then either grants the environmental clearance or rejects the project if the study does not detail plans to reduce adverse effects and/or the project would cause significant detrimental impacts. In order to obtain a permit for the project, an environmental clearance is required first.
A well-prepared and well-facilitated scoping session
A scoping session is one of the first steps in the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) process. It’s aim is to introduce all project activities to the stakeholders and gather any concerns and potential impacts that the ESIA needs to include. Though some attendees may expect a comprehensive presentation already outlining a full assessment as well as a list of the proposed mitigation measures, this is not the usual procedure. The project’s objectives and the ESIA process should be explained in detail in order to avoid misunderstandings. In some cases, there might be a disclosure session at the end of the assessment. This, however, is often not required by the government.
Since the scoping session requires the participation of key stakeholders, intensive preparation and coordination is of the essence. Participants in the session should include all relevant stakeholders. In the case of ISSRAR, our scoping session took place in Azraq and was attended by members of the Ministry of Environment (MoE), representatives of the local governmental and members of the local community.
For the scoping session to be successful and effective, having an experienced external moderator with advanced competencies in facilitation and group dynamics, that deals professionally with heated discussions and other potentially critical situations that may arise, is of paramount importance.
Continuous coordination and communication with key players
Throughout the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) process, it was crucial to remain in continuous communication with the hired consultancy firm in order to ensure that all information regarding the project and its implementation was recorded. The final ESIA will also require many rounds of revisions. Likewise, updating the local community on the ESIA required considerable effort, as we needed to convincingly explain that all environmental/social impacts would be identified and appropriately mitigated. These steps had to be taken so that the local community would accept the proposed location and understand that only positive and no adverse environmental impacts were to be expected.
Don’t underestimate the time factor
Submitting our project to the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) Licence Committee proved to be an extremely lengthy process, and intensive follow-up communications were required to elicit timely responses. Not being proactive at this point can cause massive delays.
As external consultants needed to be hired for the ESIA, the necessary tendering process took quite a lot of planning. It was time-consuming to publish, analyse, and evaluate offers. Once the consultancy firm had performed the assessment, technical backstopping was necessary to ensure that the firm understood the details of the project design and all the attendant environmental considerations.
In the case of ISSRAR, we conducted a preliminary ESIA at an early stage. Although this preparation saved us substantial amounts of time, the actual ESIA was still a lengthy process involving multiple rounds of revision. Moreover, the ESIA Technical Committee at the MoE met on a weekly basis to review the application, causing delayed responses from the MoE that affected our timeline.
- Have you identified and studied all relevant applicable environmental regulations concerning implementation of a wastewater management system in your project location?
- Are you involving all concerned decision-makers and other relevant stakeholders relating to the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment procedures and processes in your project location?
- Have you put sufficient efforts in the preparation, coordination and moderation of a scoping session, one of the first steps in performing the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) process?
- Are you continuously coordinating and communicating with key players to ensure all relevant information is shared and community concerns are addressed?
- Have you considered sufficient time for performing the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) as the application process itself can be lengthy and require intensive follow up to get a timely response?