Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean

No development project without an impact assessment

Written by Christiane Navas, NICE on Wednesday, March 2nd 2016 à 09:30 | Read 590 times


Associating development projects or sector policies with social and environmental impact assessments is increasingly becoming the norm in Southern and Eastern Mediterranean countries.

The stone and marble industry, of particular importance to the West Bank economy, is a source of considerable environmental pollution (DR)
The stone and marble industry, of particular importance to the West Bank economy, is a source of considerable environmental pollution (DR)
Studies to measure the social and environmental impacts of projects or sector policies are commonplace -often compulsory- in Northern Mediterranean countries. This is not yet the case on the southern shores, even though the needs are there. Several initiatives, audits and training schemes, have been put in place in these countries to provide assistance to the stakeholders concerned, with the support of the Plan Bleu.

A dedicated regional project, the Government and Knowledge Generation Project, targeting five countries, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine and Tunisia, was even put in place in 2012 with financial backing from the Global Environment Facility (GEF). The aim of the project was to promote the inclusion of environmental issues in sector and development policies in these countries. "This project was unusual in that it was demand-oriented. The actions to be carried out were not pre-planned but defined by the beneficiaries," explains Lina Tode, in charge of the project's implementation for the Plan Bleu.  

Thus, the stone and marble industry, of particular importance to the West Bank economy, is a source of considerable environmental pollution. Despite being aware of the problem's urgency, the companies concerned, mainly SMEs, did not know how to tackle it. Consequently, environmental audits were carried out at twenty or so of the companies that identified shortcomings in staff training, an inability to put into practice the processes required to limit the environmental impact and, where the processes were implemented, difficulties in ensuring compliance. The recommendations made towards overcoming these obstacles revealed the gains companies could expect in terms of competitiveness from their implementation. Solutions were then found to finance the necessary investment in equipment and the actions to be carried out. 

A methodological guide

In Lebanon, the efforts to assess social and environmental impacts were concentrated on water policy, a strategic sector for the country. This required a dialogue between the teams at the water ministry, in charge of the matter, and those at the environment. This approach should serve as a benchmark in evaluating the various sector policies in the future.

Over and above the concrete results obtained in the different participating countries, the Government and Knowledge Generation Project, which ended in February, 2016, was above all an opportunity to draw up a methodological guide for implementing in the field the social and environmental assessments carried out on development projects and sector policies. As Lina Tode points out, "This best practices guide is not only meant for the social and economic stakeholders in the five beneficiary countries. It aims to serve as a benchmark in all the Southern and eastern Mediterranean countries, and even further afield."  

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