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SEA Decree
Written by Amkha VAYAPHATH   
Tuesday, 30 July 2013 09:03

Minutes of Meeting

Kick-Off Meeting on Draft SEA Decree for 17 Depts of MoNRE


  • Date: 05-06 March 2013 (but managed to complete on one day)
  • Time: 8:00-16:00
  • Venue: Meeting room under the Cabinet Office (Permanent Secretary), MoNRE
  • Chairperson: DG of DEQP-MoNRE
  • Participants: Representatives from all departments of MoNRE (see Annex 1)
  • Objectives:

1. To introduce the draft SEA Decree to all of the participants in order to gain common understanding and feedbacks on the technical process of SEA

2. To exchange ideas, recommendations and suggestions among the participants and the team led by the DDG of DEQP for further improvement of the draft SEA Decree in regards to overall format, content, and technical details

3. To obtain collective consent and/or agreement with comprehensive information and voluntary manners from all of the participants towards the draft SEA Decree

4. To initiate next steps regarding finalization of the draft SEA Decree, particularly presentation to other line ministries upon completion of this meeting in order to gather comments, recommendations and suggestions for further improvement of the draft SEA

I. Background

The draft SEA Decree was developed during the past few years while the improved Environmental Protection Law (EPL) was also drafting in 2006. With the financial and technical inputs by EMSP supported by the Finnish Government, the draft SEA Decree is constantly presented through series of consultative workshops, seminars and training, which are organized both inside the compound of MONRE and other provinces including Vientiane, Luangprabang and Champasak. This offers good opportunities for sharing of experiences, knowledge, suggestions and further technical recommendations during plenary discussions between the mission team in charge of drafting and improving the draft SEA Decree led by the former Department of Environment but now known as “Department of Environmental Quality Promotion or DEQP” together with both international and national TAs supported by EMSP, and representatives from line ministries including Ministry of Public Works & Transportation, Industry & Commerce, Energy & Mining, Information-Culture and Tourism, Post-Telecommunication and Communication, and the National Assembly-Legal Committee.

With the technical inputs from both the Legal Expert and Planning Advisor as international TAs supported by EMSP, the draft SEA Decree, which is mainly edited by the DDG of DEQP, was then revised again internally within the mission team and DEQP in early January 2013. Meanwhile the draft final EPL was also officially endorsed by the National Assembly but not yet officially promulgated until now, with the specific clause on SEA guiding the development of not only the draft decree but also the technical guideline of conducting SEA. Through series of internal discussions, the draft SEA Decree developed and presented by the DDG was then technically and systematically revised by the local and international TAs, and technical staff members of DEQP in order to produce the version that complies with the international requirements and suites the local Lao context at the same time.

On 05 March 2013, with the in-kind contributions by the Government of Lao PDR in conjunction with the supports from EMSP, the kick-off meeting was organized for the participants representing the seventeen departments of MoNRE. During the meeting chaired by the DG of DEQP, the representatives such as Cabinet Office (permanent secretary representative) and MRC also exchanged ideas and comments towards the overall structure and each individual technical clauses concerning development of SEA and its integration into sector policies, strategies, plans and programs. Therefore, the following sections of this Minutes of Meeting are going to describe in details regarding format, structure, content and technical specifications of the draft Decree.

 

II. Overall Format & Content

The technical staff of DEQP (Division of Environmental Management headed by Ketkeo) Ms Khaikeo followed the meeting agenda upon completion of opening and welcoming ceremony by introducing the participants into the overall format and content, especially the whole six chapters and 37 articles. The DG also encouraged all of the participants to share their experiences in drafting legislative instruments to seek whether the draft SEA Decree properly conforms to the Government policies and sustainable development goals or not. The following table describes all of the relevant comments and suggestions:

Table 1: Comments Towards Overall Format & Content

Original description of current Draft SEA

Comments/Suggestions/Questions

Responses by Mr. Khampadith DG, Mr. Ounhuene, DDG

& Vinata (V) TA

Decree on Strategic Environmental Assessment

-          Pursuant to the Law on Government of Lao PDR, no: 02/NA dated 02 May 2003

-          Pursuant to the Article 19 of the Environmental Protection Law (EPL), no: …/NA dated ……

 

Chief Cabinet Office’s Representative: normally we just say “pursuant to the EPL” only but no need to specify the Article 19 as the traditional format that we always follow, ie: the Ministerial instruction that I just saw this January

DDG: we want to specify because we do not refer to the whole EPL but we just refer to the specific Art 19. EPL covers broadly of various aspects. Nevertheless, we highlight it and will consult during the next level meeting, especially with the MOJ.

Article 2: Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)

An SEA is a process of anticipating possibly significant impacts on social and natural environment, along with the environmental protection while developing PSPPs, including considerations on issues related to impacts of climate change

CBO, Inspection Dept and MRC: normally this article, particularly the statement here should be in Art 3 as one of the definition, should not be separated as the individual explanation

DG: we refer to the overall structure of the EPL and it is the same format therefore we keep this Art as the individual elaborating what it means with SEA

 

MRC: are you focusing only on the newly enacted PSPPs right?

V: in fact, we are looking at significantly social and natural environmental impacts of PSPPs, which are considered to develop (new) and also the existing sectors’ PSPPs while there is the mid-term review for recommendations regarding improvement

 

Cabinet Office, MRC: what will happen with the on-going development of PSPPs? If their SEA report doesn’t pass, this mean they will not be able to pursue the PSPPs right?

DDG: when we look at the Art 19, it actually emphasizes the importance of SEA and it should be for the decision makers-our top authorities to consider whether the proposed PSPPs need to reconsider again or not.

V: of course they still can pursue their PSPPs but with taking into account the recommendations of SEA, especially choosing the alternative-doing it this way under PSPP

 

In conclusion: the DG, DDG and all of the participants reached the agreement with informed consent so the six chapters and total of 37 articles are remained as they are originally written.

 

 

 

III. Comments Towards Article by Article

To follow the next agenda, which is very crucial and technical for the draft SEA Decree, there was the detailed presentation on each individual article in order to allow the participants with opportunities to exchange and share ideas, comments, suggestions and recommendations regarding terminologies, wording statements, relevant aspects, practical and theoretical concepts, and key issues needed to address, for instance similarities and differences between SEA and EIA. There are the total of thirty-seven (37) clauses all together prescribing both general or broad perspectives of SEA and in-depth details of some technical requirements, which are even more comprehensive in the third draft SEA guideline produced or recommended by the international TA of EMSP. However, due to some important parts of the Guideline still pending on details to fit in, the meeting discussion therefore only focuses on the draft SEA Decree and will introduce the third draft Guideline (both in English and Lao) later on, particularly the next meeting session with other line agencies.

During the plenary discussion, in general, all of the participants with the traditional practice, especially Article 1 and 2. Therefore, the following table reflects not only most of the comments, suggestions, and questions asked by the participants but also the responses from the team (DG, DDG, Staff members and the local consultant).

 

Table 2: Comments Towards Each Individual Article

Original description of current Draft SEA

Comments/Suggestions/Questions

Responses by Mr. Khampadith DG, Mr. Ounhuene, DDG

& Vinata (V) TA

Article 3: Explanation of Terminologies

-          “Public” mean legal entities or organizations, either local or international, which are directly or indirectly affected by PSPPs imposed by line sectors.

 

Inspection Dept: you put the term “international” but none of your articles in Chapter V: Public Participation, mentioning about international organizations, NGOs and so on

MRC: we know that the international organizations, especially NGOs and CSOs like to get involved, take the example of Mekong river dam, there are lots of negative feedbacks on this. Should we still state about “international”? we should consider taking this out.

DDG: we then delete the term “either local or international” out.

Article 4: Basic Principles

Identifying basis of SEAs aims to avoid and mitigate impacts on social and natural environment, prior to or after or during execution of sectors’ PSPPs.

An SEA shall fulfill these following principles:

  1. Identifying clear goals and scopes of assessment;
  2. Shall be consistent to the National Socio-Economic Development Strategy and Plan (NSEDP/S;
  3. Shall be consistent to local uniqueness and potentials for achieving sustainable development;
  4. Shall be consistent to the National Environmental Strategy and Action Plan;
  5. Studying both positive and negative impacts or risks; and taking solution measures while implementing PSPPs;
  6. Participating by organizations, local authorities and people or public involvement;
  7. Evaluating periodical implementation of PSPPs; and
  8. Strengthening institutions and technical capacity for sectors undertaking SEAs.

 

Cabinet Office: why do you have to put the first paragraph in again? You should delete.

As you can see the title: “basic principles”, you have 8 principles but it should be called “detailed or comprehensive principles”. If you call it this way, it should be only 5 principles instead of 8.

DDG: we consider these principles as code of conduct while doing the SEA.

 

V: these principles are guiding the SEA team members in conducting SEA process and they should keep referring to these.  We will seek more consultations with other line sectors during the next session.

Article 19: Assessment Criterion

3. Studying characteristics of impacts on social and natural environment, within short or long term, along with providing measures to avoid or mitigate any possibly significant impacts on valuable or high-risky areas or others such as human life and health, animals, plants and ecosystems including landscape, wetland, peat-lands, natural sites, historical/cultural heritages that are restricted areas, and other interactions; and

 

Land Res Dept: why do you have to specify “valuable or high-risky areas” instead of just “areas”. I think all the areas in Laos are important and play different roles. Can you explain?

DG and DDG: we would like to specify only valuable areas not others. For example, the road construction in

Article 20: Assessment of Impacts on Social and Natural Environment

In respect to development of SEA, line sectors shall produce environmental assessment reports based on the National Environmental Quality Indicators in order to avoid or mitigate impacts on social and natural environment.

 

Cabinet Office: why do you just pop up with the indicators? And what are they? Could you put this terminology at the Art 3 as well so other readers can know what you are talking about?

DG: we need to mention about them. There are 7 indicators as being stipulated by the EPL.

DDG: it’s alright we will put this term in the Article 3 to add the details in for the reader.

From Article 24 to Article 28: SEA conducted by each line sector

Inspection Dept & Cabinet Office: why don’t you put MONRE first in order to illustrate the leaderships and ownerships in SEA process and then you can talk about each line sector. For example, MONRE in Article 24 and follow accordingly

DDG: when we look at other typical formats and reality of writing the legislation, the leading organization, in this case, us “MONRE” is normally at the end after the others like other formats. Therefore, we should keep as it is.

Article 33: Participation of Local Authorities

Line ministries shall consult actively and allow local authorities to participate in all steps of procedures as stipulated by the EPL and this Decree in order to achieve sustainable development goals while developing PSPPs of sectors along with monitoring of implementation.

 

Inspection Dept & Cabinet Office: when you look at the heading as it said “participation of local authorities” and the rest of following details, except this paragraph, why do you start with “line ministries” instead of “local authorities”?

DDG: the key word in here is “PSPPs” and these normally developed at the central level. When we put like this, we want to emphasize that the line ministries in charge of proposed PSPPs must consult with the local authorities but not local authorities to participate in PSPPs planning process immediately or whenever they want. Line ministries must be responsible for this.

In conclusion: there are also some deletions, highlighting and adding, which can be seen on Annex 3, after discussing and improving with the DDG on next coming Monday 11 March 2013.

 

IV. Conclusion & Next Step

The DG of DEQP then summarized all of the comments and suggestions as mentioned above to all of the participants with strong emphasis urging the feedbacks on distributing hardcopies of the draft SEA Decree and then submitting to the technical team as soon as possible. In conclusion, the kick-off meeting was fruitfully successful with meaningful recommendations and suggestions from the representatives of the line departments. The technical details and paragraphs will be re-justified again in order to reflect those useful inputs.

 

Next Steps

  1. On Monday 11th March 2013, the DDG of DEQP, staff memebers and EMSP’s local consultant will meet together again to re-adjust the contents and details, and then forward the improved version of SEA Decree to all of the participants. During the process, the participants are also encouraged to share their knowledge and meeting agenda with their top authorities to provide more feedbacks and recommendations towards the improvement of the draft SEA Decree.
  2. Follow this meeting, there will be the consultation meeting with other line ministries as the next step for gathering more feedbacks, comments and suggestions from the sector-wide participatory approaches. The most updated version of the draft SEA Decree will be then presented to the Legal Department of MOJ for further revision in terms of conformity, compliance, theoretical and practical consistencies, and other useful inputs.
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Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 July 2013 10:35