Costa Rica

Profile General | EIA profile | SEA profile
See also Webpages (0) | Projects (1) | Library (3)

SEA profile

Updated to: 27 June 2011

Download as PDF

SEA background

to the top

Country contact on SEA

Contact details for the country contact on SEA.

Secretaría Técnica Nacional del Ambiente (SETENA)
SEA department

Dirección:  Barrio Escalante, de la Iglesia Santa Teresita 300 metros Norte y 175 metros Este; San José
Teléfono: (506) 2234-3420  
E-mail: ---  
Página web:

History of SEA

Brief description of the history of SEA in the country, including when it was introduced and any major milestones in its development.

In Costa Rica Strategic Environmental Assessment is included for the first time in 2004, with the publication of the General Regulation on Procedures for Environmental Impact Assessment. The General Regulation, establishes in Article 62, that the EAE “has as an objective to integrate the variables of environmental impact into the planning of the economic development of the country. It applies to all the plans, programs and policies for national, regional and local development; in municipalities, hydrographic basins and specific regions; with the aim of land use planning, the development of infrastructure (urban, highways, harbors, communications, energy, tourism and agriculture, among others), or, use of all natural resources (mining, energy, hydrocarbons, water, flora and fauna)”.

Legal framework for SEA

to the top

Framework/Enabling law

Name of first enabling legislation that sets the framework for SEA.

The legal framework is the Organic Law on The Environment No. 7554 published in the Official Newspaper “La Gaceta” No. 215 of November 13, 1995


The General Regulation on Procedures for Environmental Impact Assessment. Executive Decree No. 31849-MINAET-MOPT-MAG-MEIC, Annex No.3. Published in the Official Newspaper “La Gaceta” No. 125 on June 28, 2004.

Approving authority of enabling law

The authority that approved the enabling law for SEA.

  • Legislative Assembly.
  • Ministry of Environment, Energy and Telecommunications (MINAET).

First national detailed SEA regulation

First national detailed regulation (procedural requirements) for SEA, through which SEA was operationalized.

Manual of Technical Instruments for Environmental Impact Assessment Procedure (Manual of EIA)-Part III. This manual was published in 2006 by Executive Decree No. 32967-MINAET. Published in the Official Newspaper “La Gaceta” No. 85 on May 4, 2006.

The article No 66 of the General Regulation establishes that SETENA by means of a manual, will set the terms of reference, the instruments and the procedures to integrate the environmental variable into regulatory plans and into plans or programs for land use planning, that will be applicable to the ones that are in elaboration, the ones to be established in the future, as well as the ones that are already approved but do not have the environmental viability yet.

Sector specific procedures/regulations

Any existing sectoral procedure/regulations are listed here, as well as the authority that issued each.

Specific sectorial regulations do not exist yet.


Any government issued guidelines on SEA (general or sectoral) are listed here, as well as the authority that issued each. Describes the legal status of the guidelines.

  • Manual of Technical Instruments for Environmental Impact Assessment Procedure (Manual of EIA)-Part III. This manual was published in 2006 by Executive Decree No. 32967-MINAET. Published in the Official Newspaper “La Gaceta” No. 85 on May 4, 2006.
  • Guidelines on Strategic Environmental Assessment for Central America. (CCAD-IUCN, 2007).

Objective SEA

The objective of SEA as stated in the above described legal basis.

Include the environmental variable in territorial planning through environmentally fragile indexes.

Scope of SEA application

Describes for which planning processes (at policy, programme and plan level) SEA is required.

All land use planning in the country, including the regulatory county or local plans, public and private, the ones that are planning development activities, construction work or projects that could generate environmental effect will have to integrate the environmental variable.

Exemptions from SEA application

Are any specific types of plans explicitly excluded from SEA application?

No exemptions indicated 

SEA approach

Describes the current overall SEA approach. Specifically: Has the country's SEA procedure been modeled on the existing EIA approach? Or has a separate SEA approach been developed?

The methodology of EAE is different as compared to EIA.

SEA tiering with EIA

Are there any provisions for tiering of EIA and SEA?

When a project is planned in an area that has an approved Regulatory Plan, its level of environmental significance diminishes, and the initial environmental impact assessment instrument form D2 could be presented, which is a more simplified version than the ones used for high significant impact, form D1. 
This mechanism has had some complaints that just recently have been collected in a report made by the General Controler of the Republic of Costa Rica, through its operational and assessment control Division. This study indicates that the results of the IFAs (Indexes of Environmental Vulnerability) cannot be used as a substitute for the EIA, claiming that to be able to guarantee the protection of the biodiversity, a study is required that includes more analytical precision than the Regulatory Plans contain. 

Institutional setting for SEA

to the top

Central SEA authority

Is there a central authority in charge of the SEA system as a whole, responsible for issuing guidelines etc? If so, is it independent or linked to a higher body (e.g. ministry)?

National Environmental Technical Secretariat (SETENA), Department of SEA.

(De)centralisation of SEA mandates

Are SEA mandates (de)centralised? Vertical decentralization refers to the extent to which the responsibility for SEA processes is delegated by the central government to the provincial or local authorities. Sectoral or horizontal decentralization refers to the reassignment of decision-making authority on SEA to government units on a sectoral basis.

The decision making is done at a national level.

Initiator of the SEA

Who initiates the SEA? Should the plan owner initiate and undertake the SEA or is an environmental authority responsible for undertaking the SEA. If an authority is responsible, which authority and at which level?

For the regulatory plans, the municipalities are responsible.
In Master Plans for Marinas, private entities can be responsible.

SEA procedure

to the top

Establishing context

Screening requirement and authority

Is a formal screening decision required? And if so, which authority is responsible for this decision? Is the decision published?


Screening process

Describes the screening process for SEA (if any), who is involved and who is responsible. What kind documentation on the SEA needs to be submitted for screening?

Is based on a complete list including the following: policies, programs, regulatory plans, master plans, hydrographic basin management plans or regional plans that the state institutions or private project planners develop. 

Timeline Screening

Maximum number of (working) days between submission of the screening request and the screening decision.

Not specified.

Identification of stakeholders

Are stakeholders identified early on in the SEA? Who is responsible for identifying the stakeholders? Is a communication plan developed (addressing public and government engagement, disclosure, etc?).

Not done. This is done from social-economic maps that show environmentally fragile areas. The identification of the actors is done as part of the methodology from the Regulatory Plan.

Setting SEA objectives

Is there an early discussion on the objectives for the SEA (i.e. How it will support planning, how it will be integrated into the planning process)? Which stakeholders are involved? Are the outcomes of this discussion documented?

Not done. The methodology is using maps that show environmentally fragile areas.

Implementing the SEA

Scoping process

Is there a distinct scoping process? Who is responsible? Who is involved? What methods (if any) are prescribed (overlays, matrices, etc)?

Properly speaking, a separate scoping process does not exist.

Participation in scoping

If here is distinct scoping, is participation part of this process? Who is involved and how?

No. It is done as a part of the Regulatory Plan.


Are there any requirements for the alternatives to be considered in the SEA? How should alternatives be selected, ranked, compared?


Assessment/mitigation of effects

What are the specific requirements for assessment and mitigation of impacts as part of SEA? Any specific methods prescribed?

According to the Manual, the incorporation of the environmental variable in the regulatory plans, is done though incorporating environmentally fragile indexes, or IFAs, into the four axes, the geological part, the the classification of land usage, the biology and the social-economic viewpoint. Each one of them receives a score and is analyzed. 

Institutional analysis

Is the institutional setting for implementation of the plan analysed? Is there explicit attention for the identification of opportunities to strengthen environmental constituencies?

Not required.

Content of SEA report

If documentation is required, what should be contained in the SEA report?

  • Maps that contain environmentally fragile indexes.
  • Conclusions.
SEA review

Describes the requirements for SEA review. Specifically: Who reviews the SEA? An independent body? Environmental Authority? Is the review approach similar to EIA review in the country?

The Strategic Environmental Assessment Department of SETENA reviews SEAs. It is not specified if the review is similar or not to the EIA.

Participation in review

Are there any arrangements for participation in review? Who is involved? How is their involvement arranged?

Comments can be received.  The study is posted in the municipality where the Regulatory Plan is.

Timeline review

What is the timeline given for the review of the SEA, in (working) days?

Not specified.

Informing and influencing decision-making

SEA and planning decision-making

What is the formal role of SEA in decision-making on the plan? Is SEA approval needed before a planning decision can be made?

SEA approval required before adopting plan.

Recommendations for decision-making

How are the results of the SEA and participation translated into recommendations for decision-making on the plan?

Yes. Normally mitigation measures are required that are incorporated in the planning.


Monitoring requirement

Is there a requirement for implementation of decisions to be monitored? What is the role of SEA outcomes in this monitoring? What provisions exits for action to be undertaken if environmental problems occur?

Not required or specified.

Evaluation requirement

Is there a formal requirement to evaluate the SEA? Similarly, to evaluate plan implementation before the next round of plan development? Are the two connected in this SEA system?


SEA practice

to the top

Annual no. of SEAs

Gives an estimation for the number of SEAs that are produced annually in this country.

> 25.

Central SEA database

Is there a central database or library where information on SEAs is kept (i.e. where all SEAs are registered and/or copies are archived). If so, what is kept there and is this information publicly accessible?

Case studies

SEA case studies on which information is available are listed here, including a link to case documentation, if available.

Only five of the Regulatory Plans have been approved out of 45 presented.

  • EAE of The Regulatory Plan for Tibas.

Professional bodies

Professional bodies relevant to SEA practice, such as SEA Associations, Planning Associations, etc are listed here.

  • IUCN
    The Program for Sustainable Urban Development (ProDUS) founded in 1991 is attached to The School of Civil Engineering at The University of Costa Rica. The work of ProDUS concentrates in the analysis and understanding of the interaction between human settlements and other nature systems.
  • National University.

Capacity development

Sets out any ongoing training programmes (including professional and academic training) and major training events held in the past (with focus on recent events).

From 2006 onwards officials have been receiving training through the EIA Project in Central America provided by UICN.
Furthermore, others have participated in courses from CREHO and from RAMBOLL.

Non-governmental SEA guidance

Lists any SEA manuals and good practice publications (including checklists, case studies) that have been published by parties other than government.


SEA links

to the top

Links to laws/regulation

Links to relevant SEA laws or regulations.

Other relevant links on SEA

Other relevant links on SEA in the country are given here.

EAE document from A. Astorga 2005.
Capacitating needs for EAE – Astorga.
Guidelines for EAE for Central America.