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Georgia

Adoption of the Environmental Assessment Code (GE0057)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Georgia National Action Plan 2016-2018

Action Plan Cycle: 2016

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection of Georgia

Support Institution(s): Financial support – EU, program“Greening Economies in the European Union’s Eastern Partnership Countries“ - EaP GREEN; program implementator UN Economic Commission for Europe–UNECE

Policy Areas

Capacity Building, E-Government, Environment and Climate, Extractive Industries, Land & Spatial Planning, Legislation & Regulation, Public Participation, Public Service Delivery, Records Management

IRM Review

IRM Report: Georgia End-of-Term Report 2016-2018, Georgia Mid-Term Report 2016-2018

Starred: Yes Starred

Early Results: Marginal

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information Civic Participation

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Adoption of the Environmental Assessment Code; This commitment implies adoption of the environmental assessment code that will envisage the requirements of the convention “on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters” (hereafter, Aarhus Convention) in the environmental protection issues and will ensure public participation in the decision-making process in relation with effects on the environment, particularly: • to bring potential negative impact of high risk activities on the condition of the natural environment, as well as on human life and health under the environment assessment regulation, in compliance with the requrements of EU directive 2011/92/EC “on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on environment”; • Public participation in the elaboration and adoption process of bylaws (strategic douments) regulating activities that might have potential impact on natural environment and human life and health as well, dissemination of the information through printing media and electronically at the initial stage of the elaboration of strategic documents, involvement of public and scientific opinion in the process of public discussions conducted for the purposes of elaboration above mentioned documents; • Environmental decision-making, public engagement at the initial stage according to the principles of public administrative proceedings. Publication of information on on the place of planned activities, as well as electronically and through printing media, conducting public discussions on the place of planned activity, consideration of proposals and oppinions during the decision-making process. Date ofImplementation: 2016-2017; Issues to be Addressed: The practice has proven that existing regulations have significant shortcomings. With regard to the environmental impact assessment, numerous activities presenting the risk of having harmful effect on the environment remain beyond the scope of regulation that increases the degree of negative impact and the risks of such impact on the environment and human health. The procedures related to the environmental impact assessment and issuance of the relevant permits do not envisage public participation, as the publicity burden lies on the permit seeker, and the decisions are made by simple administrative procedure. There is no efficient mechanism to conduct spatial, economic and other state planning process in various sectors with consideration of environmental and human health protection aspects, so that while developing certain plan/program environmental and human health protection matters should be taken into account at a maximum early stage, and wide society and scientific population should be involved in the processes. Main Objective: Bring the activities having significant impact on the environment under the regulation, reduce the risks of negative impact on the environment; Define anticipated environmental protection risks at the initial stage of activity planning, reduce investor’s costs and financial risks; Take into account environmental protection interests while making spatial and economic planning (strategy planning) of the country; Inform and involve society at the initial stage/ throughout the process of the activity planning, ensure participation of scientific commuity and wide public in the process that will increase citizens’ trust in compliance with the requirements of Aarhus Convention.

IRM End of Term Status Summary

✪16. Adoption of the Environmental Assessment Code

Commitment Text:

This commitment implies adoption of the environmental assessment code that will envisage the requirements of the convention “on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters” (hereafter, Aarhus Convention) in the environmental protection issues and will ensure public participation in the decision-making process in relation with effects on the environment, particularly:

  • to bring potential negative impact of high risk activities on the condition of the natural environment, as well as on human life and health under the environment assessment regulation, in compliance with the requirements of EU directive 2011/92/EC “on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on environment”;
  • Public participation in the elaboration and adoption process of bylaws (strategic documents) regulating activities that might have potential impact on natural environment and human life and health as well, dissemination of the information through printing media and electronically at the initial stage of the elaboration of strategic documents, involvement of public and scientific opinion in the process of public discussions conducted for the purposes of elaboration above mentioned documents;
  • Environmental decision-making, public engagement at the initial stage according to the principles of public administrative proceedings. Publication of information on the place of planned activities, as well as electronically and through printing media, conducting public discussions on the place of planned activity, consideration of proposals and opinions during the decision-making process.

Responsible institution(s): Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection of Georgia

Supporting institution(s): Financial support – EU, program “Greening Economies in the European Union’s Eastern Partnership (EaP) Countries” – EaP GREEN; program implementer UN Economic Commission for Europe–UNECE

Start date: Not provided....... End date: August 2017

Editorial note: This commitment is clearly relevant to OGP values as written, has transformative potential impact, and is substantially or completely implemented and therefore qualifies as a starred commitment.

Commitment Aim:

The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection of Georgia (MENRP) [58] committed to adopt an environmental assessment code to bring activities with potential environmental effects under the Ministry’s regulation, assess activities against environmental protection interests, and inform and engage citizens in the decision-making process for approving these projects. [59] The commitment aimed to adopt an environmental assessment code; train a specific structural unit to adjust MENRP’s work to the new regulations; inform other administrative bodies involved in the authorization process regarding these changes; and train academics and other stakeholders in how to participate in environmental impact assessments (EIAs).

Status

Midterm: Substantial

The Environmental Assessment Code was adopted in the beginning of 2017, to be enforced starting January 2018. The Code opened up the environmental assessment process to citizens by obliging the Ministry to:

  • Inform citizens regarding project proposals via different channels such as the Ministry website, newspapers, and the building of the Ministry;
  • Collect feedback from citizens in electronic or written form, as well as through public discussions; and to
  • Provide feedback on which proposed suggestions were taken into account.

However, by the midterm, the Ministry had yet to address the other milestones, such as staffing the structural unit, informing other administrative bodies involved in the authorization process of the new regulations, and training academics and the general public in how to participate in the assessment process.

Some CSOs working in the field were concerned of shortcomings in the legislation, such as in the case of subsoil, where the National Environmental Agency is authorized to issue permits prior to environmental assessment. In their opinion, this might diminish the importance of the assessment and influence the outcome of the assessment process. For more information, please see the 2016–2017 IRM midterm report. [60] 

End of term: Substantial

After the adoption of the Environmental Assessment Code, the government of Georgia made significant changes to the structure of the ministries. The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection of Georgia (MENRP) merged with the Ministry of Agriculture and Regional Development to form a new Ministry of Environment Protection and Agriculture (MEPA). According to Green Alternative, an environmental CSO, this merger shuffled individuals responsible for implementing the commitment, resulting in a lack of competence by staff working on the environmental assessment process, thereby affecting the quality of information published about the projects in question. These staffing issues also impeded the full implementation of the remaining milestones. Additionally, since the two ministries merged their websites, information on environmental assessments gets lost in the shuffle of news regarding agriculture. [61]

According to MEPA, two trainings were conducted in September 2018 on environmental impact assessments and strategic environment protection assessments. In total, 56 participants were trained including employees of MEPA and other ministries, as well as implementing companies and planning departments. Additionally, the Ministry increased their capacity by adding specialists to the responsible department. [62]

Did It Open Government?

Access to Information: Marginal

Civic Participation: Marginal

The commitment sought to open up environmental assessments to citizens by involving them in the screening and scoping process–a process which excluded civic participation since the mid-2000s.

In October 2018, the Ministry provided statistics on civic participation in the environmental assessments. According to the Ministry, since 1 January 2018 when the Environmental Assessment Code came into force, all incoming requests are published on the Ministry’s website including screening requests (127 in total), scoping requests (61), their respective decisions to date (screening: 75, scoping: 37), as well as public meeting announcements (55 in total). [63] The Ministry does not have statistics on citizen engagement. However, the Ministry accepts citizen suggestions in written and oral forms and includes them in the meeting transcripts. [64]

While CSOs commended the Ministry for adopting the Code and opening citizen participation channels during environmental impact assessments, several loopholes remain both in legal norms and in practice. According to a recently published policy brief by Green Alternative, there are two deficiencies in the legislation. First, while citizens can participate in all three stages of the environmental assessment, the Ministry and the project implementer exercise the right to initiate a change to the resulting decision. If such a change is initiated, instead of a public administrative procedure with citizen participation, simple administrative procedure is conducted, leaving citizens outside of the process. Secondly, the Code has two annexes which list types of projects that are subject to mandatory environmental assessment. While activities listed in Annex 1 are automatically subject to EIA, activities under Annex 2 are subject to assessment only if the Ministry decides that the EIA is necessary. According to this annex, open-cast mining of minerals is only subject to mandatory EIA if the surface of the mining site exceeds 25 hectares; peat extraction falls under the same requirement if the surface of the site exceeds 150 hectares. Environmental experts believe that 25 and 150 hectares are exceedingly high thresholds and inadequate for protecting natural resources and the environment. [65] As noted in the Midterm Report, the Code also falls short of regulating EIAs in forestry. [66]

 

According to experts in the field, the practical implementation of the new Code has shortcomings as well. For example, the Ministry violates procedural norms by publishing insufficient information regarding the project proposals, and by changing public hearing dates without notifying stakeholders. Environmental experts have the impression that while some of the shortcomings might be due to a lack of competence, on some occasions the Ministry deliberately avoids following the procedural norms. As the first two years implementing the Code set the precedent for years to come, these concerns were brought to Parliament and a hearing with the Environmental Protection and Natural Resources Committee was requested. While Parliament promised to hold a hearing on the loopholes in legal norms and their implementation, no such hearing was held as of December 2018. [67] Additionally, experts in the field call for increased human and financial resources in the relevant department of the Ministry to increase competency in implementing the Code. [68]

As for assessing the impact of the commitment, according to a leading NGO in the field, at this early stage of implementation it is difficult to assess the extent citizen inputs are taken into consideration in the final decision regarding the proposed projects. [69]

Carried Forward?

The LEPL Environmental Information and Education Centre under the Ministry of Environment Protection and Agriculture made a new, related, commitment in the new 2018−2019 National Action Plan to increase the efficient application of the Environmental Assessment Code. The new commitment, Commitment 5, envisions creating a web-platform for publishing information regarding assessments and decisions; this will increase citizen access to information regarding upcoming projects and simplify their involvement in the assessment process.

According to Green Alternative, this platform would enable efficient dissemination of project information and would allow for easier citizen participation by offering online space for comments. Additionally, this platform could be used for involvement in other assessment processes, including assessment of government strategies among other documents. [70]

[58] The Ministry was merged with the Ministry of Agriculture of Georgia and is now the Ministry of Environment Protection and Agriculture of Georgia.

[59] Government of Georgia, Georgia National Action Plan 2016-2017 (OGP, 3 Nov. 2016), http://bit.ly/2t2eFxU.

[60]  Lasha Gogidze and Tamar Gzirishvili, Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM): Georgia Progress Report 2016-2017 (OGP, 30 Apr. 2018), https://bit.ly/2NIr097.

[61] Keti Gujaraidze (Policy Analyst) and Irakli Macharashvili (Biodiversity Program Director, Green Alternative), interview with IRM researcher, 22 Aug. 2018.

[62] Salome Dvali (2nd Category Senior Specialist in the Strategic Planning Unit of the Environmental Assessment Department, Ministry of Environment Protection and Agriculture), e-mail correspondence with IRM researcher, 19 Oct. 2018.

[63] Id.

[64] Id.

[65] Kety Gujaraidze, “A Year After the Enactment of the Environmental Assessment Code: the Shortcomings Identified” (Green Alternative, 14 Dec. 2018), http://greenalt.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/EIA_policy_brief_2018_FINAL_ENG.pdf.

[66] Rezo Getiashvili (Environmental Projects Coordinator, Caucasus Environmental NGO Network (CENN)), interview with IRM researcher, 28 Dec. 2018.

[67] Keti Gujaraidze (Policy Analyst, Green Alternative), interview with IRM researcher, 26 Dec. 2018.

[68] Id.

[69] Ann Inasaridze (Environmental Resources Management Specialist, CENN), email correspondence with IRM researcher, 29 Dec. 2018.

[70] Gujaraidze and Macharashvili, interview, 22 Aug. 2018.


Georgia's Commitments

  1. Improved Public Services

    GE0066, 2018, Capacity Building

  2. Citizen Engagement Platform

    GE0067, 2018, Capacity Building

  3. Unified Authentication System

    GE0068, 2018, E-Government

  4. Economic Governance

    GE0069, 2018, E-Government

  5. Environment Portal

    GE0070, 2018, E-Government

  6. Strengthen Anti-Corruption Institutions

    GE0071, 2018, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  7. Monitor SDGs

    GE0072, 2018, Capacity Building

  8. Citizen Engagement Legislation

    GE0073, 2018, Legislation & Regulation

  9. Publish Court Decisions

    GE0074, 2018, E-Government

  10. Increasing Transparency of the Ministry of Internal Affairs

    GE0075, 2018, E-Government

  11. Citizen Participation in Public Finance

    GE0076, 2018, Audits and Controls

  12. Transparent Public Funding System

    GE0077, 2018, Fiscal Transparency

  13. Public Procurement Improvements

    GE0078, 2018, E-Government

  14. Housing Policy Planning

    GE0079, 2018, Land & Spatial Planning

  15. Openness and Accountability of State-Owned Enterprises

    GE0080, 2018, E-Government

  16. Transparency and Good Governance

    GE0081, 2018, Legislation & Regulation

  17. Open Data Collection and Publication

    GE0082, 2018, E-Government

  18. Participation for Disabled Individuals

    GE0083, 2018, Infrastructure & Transport

  19. Participatory Budgeting

    GE0084, 2018, Capacity Building

  20. Your Idea for the Zugdidi Mayor

    GE0085, 2018, Capacity Building

  21. Electronic Services

    GE0086, 2018, E-Government

  22. I. Gov. Zugdidi

    GE0087, 2018, Capacity Building

  23. Service and Citizen Satisfaction Assessment

    GE0088, 2018, Capacity Building

  24. Promoting and Monitoring SDGs

    GE0089, 2018, Legislature

  25. Citizen Involvement in Budget

    GE0090, 2018, E-Government

  26. Technology for Transparency

    GE0091, 2018, E-Government

  27. Citizen Engagement Center

    GE0092, 2018, Capacity Building

  28. Raising Public Awareness About Parliamentary Democracy

    GE0093, 2018, E-Government

  29. Electronic Innovations for More Transparency and Efficiency of Public Procurement

    GE0056, 2016, Capacity Building

  30. Starred commitment Adoption of the Environmental Assessment Code

    GE0057, 2016, Capacity Building

  31. Introduction of a Mobile App as an Alternative Channel to Connect to “112”

    GE0058, 2016, E-Government

  32. Development of Local Councils for Crime Prevention

    GE0059, 2016, Public Service Delivery

  33. Development of a Guidebook for Economic Agents

    GE0060, 2016, Capacity Building

  34. Development and Introduction of the Quality Control Program of Commercial Service

    GE0061, 2016, Capacity Building

  35. Presentation of Company Reports in an Electronic Form and Provision of Their Accessibility

    GE0062, 2016, Capacity Building

  36. Introduction of an Electronic Petition Portal and “Zugdidi-INFO” on the Webpage of Zugdidi Municipality Assembly

    GE0063, 2016, Capacity Building

  37. Transparency of Ozurgeti Municipality Assembly Meetings

    GE0064, 2016, Capacity Building

  38. Creation of Electronic Mechanism for Local Budget Planning in Kutaisi, Ozurgeti, Batumi and Akhaltsikhe

    GE0065, 2016, E-Government

  39. Adapting the Public Service Hall to the Needs of the People with Disabilities

    GE0042, 2016, Capacity Building

  40. Launch of the Unified Healthcare System Information Portal

    GE0043, 2016, Capacity Building

  41. Introduction of Electronic Licensing System in the Field of Natural Resources Application

    GE0044, 2016, Capacity Building

  42. Creation of Spatial (Geographic) Data Web-Portal for the Energy Sector

    GE0045, 2016, Capacity Building

  43. Creation of Innovation Ecosystem

    GE0046, 2016, Capacity Building

  44. Electronic Portal for Registering and Disposal of State Property – Customer’S Module

    GE0047, 2016, E-Government

  45. Development of the Freedom of Information Law

    GE0048, 2016, Legislation & Regulation

  46. Development of a Monitoring and Assessment System of the Government Policy and Legislative Acts

    GE0049, 2016, Capacity Building

  47. Starred commitment Introduction of the Public Officials’ Asset Declarations Monitoring System

    GE0050, 2016, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  48. Establishing Unified Regulations to Publish Court Decisions

    GE0051, 2016, Judiciary

  49. Development of Transparency and Integrity Strategy and Action Plan in the Field of Regional Development and Infrastructure

    GE0052, 2016, Capacity Building

  50. Improvement of the Database of the Convicted and Transfer of the Penitentiary Department Entirely Onto the Electronic Workflow Management

    GE0053, 2016, Capacity Building

  51. Publication of Phone Tapping Data According to the Nature of the Crime and Geographic Area

    GE0054, 2016, E-Government

  52. Starred commitment Increasing Citizen Participation in Supervision of Public Finances (Public Audit)

    GE0055, 2016, Capacity Building

  53. "Voice of the Consumer"

    GE0013, 2014, Public Participation

  54. JUSTdrive

    GE0014, 2014, Public Service Delivery

  55. Educational Services

    GE0015, 2014, Public Service Delivery

  56. Citizen's Portal (Www.Mygov.Ge)

    GE0016, 2014, Capacity Building

  57. Transformation of Public Libraries for Regional Development

    GE0017, 2014, Capacity Building

  58. Digital Signature and Online Authentication

    GE0018, 2014, E-Government

  59. Open Data Portal (Data.Gov.Ge)

    GE0019, 2014, E-Government

  60. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Draft

    GE0020, 2014, Legislation & Regulation

  61. Georgia's OGP Forum

    GE0021, 2014, OGP

  62. I-Change.Ge

    GE0022, 2014, E-Government

  63. Transparency of Public Service Recruitment

    GE0023, 2014, E-Government

  64. Asset Declaration Monitoring System

    GE0024, 2014, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  65. Starred commitment Political Party Financial Declarations

    GE0025, 2014, E-Government

  66. Accessibility of Ministry of Interior's Webpage to People with Special Needs

    GE0026, 2014, E-Government

  67. Starred commitment Proactive Publishing of Surveillance Data

    GE0027, 2014, Civic Space

  68. Public Awareness of the Electoral Process

    GE0028, 2014, Capacity Building

  69. Transparency of Budgetary Processes

    GE0029, 2014, E-Government

  70. Electronic System of Procurement

    GE0030, 2014, E-Government

  71. Digital Human Resource Management System

    GE0031, 2014, E-Government

  72. Digital Preservation System: E-Archive

    GE0032, 2014, E-Government

  73. Openness and Accessibility of National Archives

    GE0033, 2014, E-Government

  74. Electronic Catalogues of Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) Archives

    GE0034, 2014, E-Government

  75. Public Finance Management System

    GE0035, 2014, E-Government

  76. Alternative Channels to "112"

    GE0036, 2014, E-Government

  77. Interactive Statistics and Crime Mapping

    GE0037, 2014, E-Government

  78. Travel Insurance Services

    GE0038, 2014, Citizenship and Immigration

  79. State Property Registration

    GE0039, 2014, Public Service Delivery

  80. Development of Community Centers in Georgia

    GE0040, 2014, E-Government

  81. Introduction of e-Governance in Local Self-Governments

    GE0041, 2014, E-Government

  82. Public Service Hall-Hub of Public Services

    GE0001, 2012, Citizenship and Immigration

  83. e-Governance in Local Governments

    GE0002, 2012, E-Government

  84. Citizens’ Portal

    GE0003, 2012, E-Government

  85. Easily Accessible and Better Healthcare

    GE0004, 2012, E-Government

  86. Launch Ichange.Ge and Data.Gov.Ge

    GE0005, 2012, E-Government

  87. Platform for Participating in the Legislative Process

    GE0006, 2012, E-Government

  88. Citizens and Justice

    GE0007, 2012, Judiciary

  89. Starred commitment Transparent Party Financing

    GE0008, 2012, Money in Politics

  90. Home-Grown Concept of E-Procurement

    GE0009, 2012, E-Government

  91. e-Declarations

    GE0010, 2012, Asset Disclosure

  92. Technology Cares for Safety: ICCMS, Crime Mapping, and Safety in Your Neighbourhood

    GE0011, 2012, E-Government

  93. NGO Forum

    GE0012, 2012, Capacity Building