All interested parties in conducting Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) have been advised that the Environmental Assessment Act of 2011 came into force end of June, 2012. They have been given one year grace period to register and be granted certificates, subsequent to which it will be an offence for anyone to conduct EIA without the necessary certification.
This came to light during an interview with Unopa Sikuku, Association Registrar of an Association called Botswana Environmental Assessment Practitioners Association (BEAPA).
The rise in infrastructural development forced the government to come up with instruments that would try and conserve the environment. EIA became ‘must do’ whenever land users wanted to implement projects that would have negative impact on the environment in which they would be implemented. The mining of river or pit sand can be such examples.
The assessment task attracted many Practitioners, some of whom lacked qualifications. This is what led to the formation of the BEAPA.
“Concerns that the profession of environmental practice was done without due regard for professional qualification and experience are a factor that led to poor quality of EIAs hence the need for a self-regulating organisation that would ensure Environmental adherence to high quality standard by Environmental Assessment Practitioners,” said Sikuku. “EA saw the birth of this association on 22nd January 2010.”
He said that the BEAPA Board, according to its Constitution and the Environmental Assessment Act, (No. 10 of 2011), is constituted by seven members (practitioners) elected at an Annual General Meeting (AGM) a Legal Advisor nominated by the Association and three appointees by the Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism who may or may not be members of the Association.
Although the Association was formed in 2010, he said, it initially was run by an interim Board and with no staff. Their focus was to develop tools for successful registration and certification of EIA Practitioners. This process was finalised by the elected Board that took over from the Interim Board who then hired one staff member and started registering and certifying members and practitioners.
“To be precise about ten members have been registered. However, the Board is also sanctioned by the EAP Act of 2011, and with the recent coming into force of the said Act, it meant that the Board had to be constituted according to this Act. It was on this basis that the Extraordinary General Meeting of September 26th, 2012 was convened at the Big Five Lodge. Ministry of Environment Wildlife and Tourism (MEWT) are also working towards appointing the Board members that should be appointed by the Minister. The Board would then regularise the registration and certification tools that have been developed,” said Sikuku.
There are different levels, he said, for certification which require different levels of qualifications and experience, including competencies. After certification, EIA practitioners can conduct EIAs and submit EIA Statements to the Department of Environmental Affairs for approval. This is done as part of the procedure for acquiring a plot where an applicant wishes to undertake a project that has impact on the environment where it is to be done.
According to Sikuku, recognizable projects have been done by the association so far.
“Tools for registration and certification have been developed. The Secretariat has been established and is currently operational with staff member and working towards hiring more staff members,” he said.
The association recently called an extra ordinary general meeting to align its constitution with the environmental Assessment Act no. 10 of 2011. Explaining what the aligning had to do with the associations daily services, Sikuku said the Constitution of the Association forms part of the EA Act, 2011 and its Regulations as they were drafted at the same time and they were intended to effect at the same time.
“However, the registration of the Association and other developments regarding Board formation and subsequent development of registration and certification tools then proceeded at a faster rate whilst the Act followed normal government procedures, and was, therefore, left behind. When it (Act) finally effected end of June 2012, it required that within three months of its coming into force a new Board should be elected…. and remember both the Association Constitution and EA Act, 2011 were meant to go in tandem). So we had to call an Extraordinary General Meeting to sort this out. And indeed it was sorted.”
Sikuku said at the moment the Association’s awareness programme targets possible practitioners so that they are registered and certified. This is done through two main ways: by displaying all the information about the Association in the website, including detailed guidance on application for membership and certification as well as downloadable forms, as well as regularly placing adverts in the newspapers reminding constituents to access the website.
“At some point we will target the general public so that they assist in monitoring whether certified practitioners adhere to the code of conduct. We have started requesting for slots to address Full District Councils and the Parliamentary Committees relevant to the environment sector.”
“To avoid the last minute rush I would advise them to submit their applications now. Detailed guidance and application forms are available on our website (www.beapa.org.bw). If they wait until the last hour it is themselves that are going to be inconvenienced,” he concluded.