Regional Guidelines on Public Participation in Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)

Draft for Consultation and Comment
Version 22 August 2016

Annex II: Key Terms and Definitions

  1. This section provides definitions for some key terms and concepts relating to public participation and EIA, as they are used in these Guidelines. The Mekong region countries sometimes use different words and phrases for similar concepts, and sometimes define words and phrases differently. The definitions in this section are not intended to replace any of these country-specific definitions or be used for any legal purpose. Rather, they are provided to help the users of these Guidelines better understand the usage of the terms and concepts throughout this document.
  1. Adverse Impact - any negative environmental, social, economic, health, occupational safety or health effect suffered or borne by any entity, natural person, or natural resource, including, but not limited to, the environment, flora and fauna, where such effect is attributable in any degree or extent to, or arises in any manner from, any action or omission on the part of the project proponent, or from the design, development, construction, implementation, maintenance, operation, or decommissioning of the project or any related activities.
  1. Alternatives - in relation to a proposed project, different realistic and feasible means of meeting the general purpose and requirements of the project (as well as the alternative of not proceeding with the proposal), which may include alternatives to:
    • the property on which, or location where, it is proposed to undertake the project;
    • the type of project to be undertaken;
    • the design or layout of the project;
    • the technology to be used in the project;
    • the operational aspects of the project; and
    • any other substantive characteristic or aspect of the project.
  1. Civil Society Organization (CSO) - refers to the wide array of non-governmental and not-for-profit organizations that have a presence in public life, expressing the interests and values of their members or others, based on ethical, cultural, political, scientific, religious or philanthropic considerations, including community groups, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), labor unions, disadvantaged groups, charitable organizations, faith-based organizations, professional associations, and foundations.
  1. Collaborate Level - a level in the spectrum of public participation, where the goal is to partner with the public in each aspect of the decision including the development of alternatives and the identification of the preferred solution.
  1. Consult Level – a level in the spectrum of public participation, where the goal is to obtain public feedback on analysis, alternatives and/or decisions.
  1. Empower Level - a level in the spectrum of public participation, where the goal is to negotiate final decisions between the public and decision-makers.
  1. Environment - in its inclusive sense, means the natural, physical, social, health, economic and cultural aspects of:
    • ecosystems and their constituent parts, including people and communities;
    • all natural and physical resources;
    • the qualities and characteristics of locations, places and areas;
    • heritage and amenity values of places; and
    • the complex web of inter-relationships between living and non-living components which sustain all life on earth, including the social, health, and livelihood aspects of human existence.
  1. Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) - a legal document through which the designated government EIA Authority approves an Initial Environmental Examination (IEE) Report or an EIA Report, and/or an EMMP.
  1. Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) – a widely-applied and internationally-accepted process of identifying, predicting, evaluating, and mitigating potential impacts of development projects on the environment (in its inclusive sense – see definition of ‘environment’) prior to major decisions and commitments being made.
  1. EIA Authority - the government administrative unit responsible for administering the country’s EIA system, including reviewing and/or approving EIA reports (typically, an EIA department within an environment ministry).
  1. EIA consultant - a qualified third-party expert (organization or individual) contracted by the project proponent to undertake the EIA investigation and prepare the EIA report, as well as any other parts of the EIA process included in the consultant contract.
  1. EIA decision – the formal decision made by the lawfully determined decision-maker about whether to approve an EIA report (and associated documentation, including the Environmental Management and Monitoring Plan) or not, noting that other regulatory permits, licenses or approvals may also subsequently be required for the project proposal to proceed to implementation.
  1. EIA investigation – the step of the EIA process that involves identifying and evaluating potential impacts and risks of a project proposal, including the:
    1. baseline assessment and data gathering;
    2. consideration of impacts, including cumulative impacts;
    3. application of a risk assessment methodology;
    4. application of relevant national and international environmental quality standards and guidelines;
    5. analysis of alternatives;
    6. application of the mitigation hierarchy; and
    7. identification of monitoring requirements.
  1. EIA report – the documentation of all the investigations undertaken in the EIA process and the analysis and findings of the EIA investigation, generally including:
    1. an executive summary;
    2. a description of the applicable policy, legal and institutional framework;
    3. a detailed description of the project proposal, including detailed maps and diagrams;
    4. a detailed description of the relevant surrounding environment, including socio-economic settings;
    5. an explanation of the public participation processes undertaken;
    6. a description and justification of the risk assessment methodology employed;
    7. details of the impact and risk assessment, including cumulative impacts and any transboundary impacts;
    8. identification and analysis of project alternatives;
    9. the application of the mitigation hierarchy to identified impacts and risks;
    10. an Environmental Management and Monitoring Plan (EMMP);
    11. attachments with necessary additional technical information about the project proposal and EIA.
  1. Environmental Management and Monitoring Plan (EMMP) - a detailed and comprehensive plan (or series of plans) for all phases of a project (including construction, operation, decommissioning and closure) that presents all relevant commitments, environmental standards, mitigation measures, monitoring requirements and other environmental requirements, along with a detailed budget, timeframes and allocation of responsibilities.
  1. Grievance mechanism - process by which people affected by a project or company’s operations can voice their concerns to the company, or to the government, for consideration for redress.
  1. Impact – the probable effects or consequences on the environment of a project proposal; impacts can be direct or indirect, cumulative, and positive or adverse or both, and include ecological, social, cultural, economic, livelihood, health, and safety issues.
  1. Inform Level - a level in the spectrum of public participation, where the goal is to provide the public with balanced and objective information to assist them in understanding the problem, alternatives, opportunities and/or solutions.
  1. Involve Level – a level in the spectrum of public participation, where the goal is to work directly with the public throughout the process to ensure that public concerns and aspirations are consistently understood and considered.
  1. Mitigation hierarchy – a framework for managing risks and potential impacts of a project proposal that involves a logical sequence of actions to first anticipate and avoid impacts, then minimize risks and impacts where avoidance is not possible, then rehabilitate or restore the environment when impacts occur, and finally offset or compensate for any significant residual impacts.
  1. Monitoring – direct and indirect activities, undertaken internally or externally, to identify actual activities, impacts and overall performance of a project and the comparison of these findings to commitments in the EIA report and EMMP.
  1. Project Affected People (PAP) – a natural person, legal entity, or organization who/which are directly or indirectly affected by the investment project (or are likely to be affected) due to legally requisition of lands or real estate, changes of land category, or impacts on the socioeconomics or environmental system in their settlement areas.
  1. Project Proponent - any natural person, legal entity, or organization, from the public or private sector, undertaking a project or any aspect of a project (including study, survey, design, development, pre-construction, construction, operation, decommissioning, closure, and post closure) and during the period of such undertaking which has an ownership interest (legal or equitable) in the project, or which intends to derive financial or other benefits from the project of the sort which an owner would ordinarily derive. (Synonymous with project developer or project owner.)
  1. Public Participation - involving those who are directly and indirectly affected by a decision in the decision-making process, promoting sustainable decisions by providing participants with the information they need to be involved in a meaningful way, and communicating to participants how their input affects the decision. (Synonymous with Stakeholder Engagement.)
  1. Residual Impacts – predicted or actual impacts that remain after mitigation measures have been applied, including after project closure.
  1. Scoping – the process to determine the scope of the EIA and the data needed to be collected and analyzed in order to assess the impacts of the project proposal on the environment, which results in establishing a terms of reference (ToR) for the EIA.
  1. Screening – the process of reviewing a project proposal to determine whether an environmental impact assessment, or any other form of environmental assessment, is required before the project can proceed to implementation.
  1. Stakeholder – persons, groups or communities external to the core operations of a project who may be affected by the project proposal, or have interest in it, at any stage in the project cycle (whether planning and construction, operation, or closure and decommissioning); this includes individuals, vulnerable groups, businesses, communities, other government ministries, local government authorities, academia, national and international NGOs, the media, and people who are concerned about the project proposal that may not live in the area directly impacted by the project.
  1. Terms of Reference (ToR) - a description of all works to be undertaken when carrying out an EIA, including data gathering and analysis and public participation processes, in accordance with the scoping report prepared for the EIA.
  1. Transboundary - refer to governance arrangements that cross administrative and/or political regions at all levels, not only across sovereign state boundaries as inextricably bound up with the terms ‘jurisdiction’ and ‘control’.
  1. Vulnerable group – any group of persons who are disadvantaged in social, economic, cultural, religious, or political arenas, such that they are blocked from or denied full access to various rights, opportunities and resources that are normally available to others and are thereby prevented from participating fully in the economic, social, and political life of the society in which they live (including ethnic minorities, women, people with disabilities, children, the elderly, etc.)