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Updated to: 27 June 2011Download as PDF
Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment
100 m south of the National Stadium
P.O. Box 1389
Tegucigalpa M.D.C., Honduras
Tel: (504) 239-4296
Fax: (504) 232-6250
E-mail: email@example.com y http://firstname.lastname@example.org
History of ESIA
Honduras introduced the principles of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in 1993, when the General Law of the Environment was enacted by Executive Decree No.104-93. The law required an assessment of environmental impacts caused by all public or private projects, so, the National System of Environmental Impact Assessment (SINEIA), in charge all EIAs in Honduras, was established. A year later, the Regulation of the SINEIA was issued (published in the official newspaper “La Gaceta” No. 27.291 on March 5, 1994). This issued, for the first time, a procedure for obtaining an environmental license. It also created the General Direction of Environmental Evaluation and Control (DECA) and the Environmental Units (UNA).
The Secretariat of Natural Resources and Environment (SERNA) was redesigned by Decree-218-96 and was approved by Decree No. 52-97, published in the official newspaper “La Gaceta” on May 22, 1997 where it was determined that it would have two Sub-secretaries, the Sub-secretary of Natural Resources and the Sub-secretary of the Environment where DECA is located.
On December 31, 2009, a new regulation was enacted by SINEIA, (Ministerial Agreement No. 189-2009 published in the official newspaper) on the actualization and modernization of the EIA system where no significant changes took place since 1994.
The first step to obtain an environmental license is to categorize the project, construction work or activity by using the Table of Environmental Categorization (a project is standardized by its potential environmental impact or environmental risk based on Uniform International Industry Classification of all Economic Activities-CIIU, Article 4.43 of ED189-2009), that guides the users of the system on the environmental assessment procedure. For projects that do not appear in the Table of Environmental Categorization, SERNA decides on the category (Article 29 of ED 189-2009).
According to article 30 of Decree 189-2009, projects are categorized into four different categories 1, 2, 3 and 4. Category
- corresponds to projects that have a low potential environmental impact or environmental risk.
- corresponds to projects that have a moderate potential environmental impact or environmental risk.
- corresponds to projects that have a high potential environmental impact or environmental risk.
- corresponds to projects that have a very high potential environmental impact or environmental risk, the mega development projects are in this category.
All other projects having a very low potential environmental impact or environmental risk, do not fall under these 4 categories.
As a next step, by their categorization, an initial Environmental Assessment is made using the corresponding form to evaluate the significance of environmental impact. (Article 24, Decree189-2009).
According to articles 32 and 33 (Decree 189-2009) the projects classified in categories 1, 2 and 3 should solicit an environmental license, Form SINEIA F-01 (for category 1) or F-02 (for categories 2 and 3) and present the technical and legal documents that these indicate to the corresponding SINEIA authority.
Also for projects in categories 2 and 3 proponents shall present a environmental assessment instrument that is determined after filling out Form F-02, that could correspond to an Environmental Assessment Plan or failing that, the subscription of the corresponding application in the guide or guides of good environmental practices of that sector.
Article 31 mentions that in the Table of Environmental Categorization the Environmentally Sensitive Areas list can be found, which establishes areas within national territory, that are considered, by their nature or special administrative condition, sensitive from an environmental point of view and therefore need special consideration, in case there are development intentions within these areas.
Contents of the starting document
According to article 4.19 of Decree 189-2009 the SINEIA Form F-01, is the environmental assessment instrument that shall be presented for projects categorized as having low potential environmental impact. In this form, the project is defined, its location, its surroundings and a commitment to fulfill the Good Environmental Practice Code of Honduras.
According to article 4.20 of Decree 189-2009, the SINEIA Form F-02, is the environmental assessment instrument that shall be presented for projects categorized as having moderate or high potential environmental impact. In this form, the project is defined, its location, its surroundings and provides an assessment of the significance of its environmental impact, at which time it is decided whether a more elaborate environmental assessment is required or not, in which case a subscription to the fulfillment of a guide of good environmental practices is legalized by SERNA, according to the technical procedure established in the Form.
Timelines are not specified, it is only mentioned that SINEIA indicates that the project effectively belongs in the chosen category and that it fulfills the established requirements for projects in categories 1, 2 and 3. (articles 32.2 and 33.3 of Decree 189-2009).
According to article 33 (Decree 189-2009), for projects classified in categories 2 and 3, which shall present an Environmental Management Plan, the SERNA, through the Manual of Environmental Assessment and Control of SINEIA provides a document that acts as an orientation guide for the terms of reference, separating projects into category 2 and category 3.
According to article 34 (Decree 189-2009) projects classified in category 4 shall present to SERNA one of the following two procedures depending on the proponent’s decision:
A Study of Environmental Impact (EsIA) elaborated according to an orientation document found in the Manual of Environmental Assessment and Control.
A Formal request of the intended development project to SERNA so that the Terms of Reference can be established to elaborate the corresponding EsIA. In the case of megaprojects and projects for which the SERNA considers it to be necessary, the proponent can call on the Technical Committee to draft the terms of reference in the proposal in accordance with the established procedure in the Manual of Environmental Assessment and Control of the SINEIA.
According to Article 36 (Decree189-2009), the Terms of Reference can be elaborated by an interdisciplinary team in coordination with the corresponding public office; they will need the criteria of the DECA, and approval of the Director of the DECA.
According to Article 37 (Decree 189-2009), the public and Non Governmental Organizations will be able to make suggestions to the SERNA to have them included in the project’s terms of reference when elaborating the EsIA. The time for this process is 15 administrative working days. It is up to DECA to decide whether to include the public’s observations in the Terms of Reference.
According to Article 38 (Decree 189-2009), the DECA must deliver the written Terms of Reference duly signed and sealed to the proponent.
Contents of the scoping document
The Terms of Reference are elaborated by the DECA (case-by-case or according to the ones described in the Manual of Environmental Assessment and Control), describing all references and relevant ackgound of projects in Category 4, deciding, in clear and specific form, those activities that will have to be realized by the Proponent in order to elaborate a satisfactory EsIA.
There are also terms of reference for projects in Category 2 and 3 in the Manual of Environmental Assessment and Control of the SINEIA, for the cases that an Environmental Management Plan must be realized.
Article 36 (Decree 189-2009), establishes a maximum of 30 administrative working days to establish the Terms of Reference.
The EsIA is a technical document that must identify and predict the effects on the environment that will be caused by a human action (Article 44, Decree 189-2009).
According to the Article 38 (Decree 189-2009), once the terms of reference are delivered to the proponent, he will be the person in charge of contracting a consultancy firm or a team of professionals to elaborate the EsIA document corresponding to Category 4 or a megaproject. During this process, partial reports must be presented to the DECA (Article 45, Decree 189-2009).
Contents of the EIA report
- The EsIA must include the identification of environmentally sensitive areas within the area of influence of the project, the results of the interaction process with the nearby communities and a record of the adjustments as part of the analysis on the location and design alternatives (Article 46, Decree 189-2009).
- During the elaboration of the EsIA it is necessary to use, as a minimum, measurement of environmental impacts according to the standardized procedure in the Manual of Environmental Assessment and Control (to establish the dimension and conditions of environmental impacts, including accumulative impacts) (Article 47, Decree 189-2009).
- The professional providers of environmental services who take part in the elaboration of a EsIA, must identify themselves by using their official signatures (Article 49, Decree 189-2009).
- It is necessary in the document to appropriately mention any source of consulted information by making, at the end, a complete list of the mentioned references (Article 50, Decree 189-2009).
- The EsIA and its copies will be presented to the SERNA (Article 51, Decree 189-2009).
- As soon as the EsIA has been approved by the SERNA, the number of requested hard copies must be presented as well as an electronic file, along with all the maps, graphs, figures, pictures and necessary annexes (Article 58, Decree 189-2009).
Accreditation of consultants
The Providers of Environmental Services, will have to be accredited and certified by a suitable legal and technical entity, and be inscribed in the Providers' Record of Environmental Services that the SERNA administers, to be able to intervene in an EIA, an EsIA, Environmental Audit or Follow-up and Environmental Control (Article 16 and 86, DE-189-2009). This is regulated, in more detail, in a new Providers' Regulation of Environmental Services that has not been published yet.
According to the Article 24 and 34 (Decree 189-2009), as soon as the defined instrument for each category has been handed in to the SERNA or the corresponding SINEIA Authority with all the legal and technical requirements, including payment for the environmental assessment and the publication in a local and / or national coverage newspaper, the notification of intent to realize a project, its investment, its location and the intent of requesting an environmental license; the authority proceeds with the technical and legal review of the documentation.
The review of the EsIA is done by a multidisciplinary team, following a standardized review procedure that forms part of the Manual of Environmental Assessment and Control of the SINEIA. From the review, a technical opinion is issued that forms a part of the projects file. (Article 55, Decree 189-2009).
As part of the EsIA review process the DECA can request the support of the environmental sectoral or municipal units that are formally established and operating. (Article 48, Decree 189-2009).
In addition, support is available from the Technical Advisory Committee (for controversial and high impact cases that could affect national interests and that deserve a wider range of consultation and participation, article 21 of the DE-189-2009), higher education centers, laboratories and institutions dedicated to research and development in the environmental sciences; from the public and ONG's, as well as of any other public or private entity related to the subject matter (article 8, Decree 189-2009).
The review procedure of the request form and documents will be done in a period of 15 administrative working days for the projects in Category 1, and 30 administrative working days for projects in Categories 2 and 3, after which, the project, construction work or activity in question will be registered, and the respective Environmental License will be issued, when it proceeds. (32.3 and 33.4, Decree 189-2009).
The timeline for the review of the presented EsIA is 60 administrative working days for Category 4 if they are not megaprojects and 80 administrative working days for Category 4 if they are megaprojects (Article 35, Decree 189-2009).
Integration of ESIA into decision-making
All projects should have an environmental license before executing them (article 24, Decree189-2009). The resolution, which the SINEIA authority uses to grant the environmental permit, obligates the owner to comply with mitigation measures agreed on as a result of the EIA process.
The competent authority is DECA of SERNA for projects in Category 4 and to whom they delegate for other project categories (municipality, sector institution or regional office).
After checking the documentation, a technical opinion is issued that forms a part of the project’s file, indicating whether the project is accepted without modification, accepted with modifications or rejected (Article 55, Decree 189-2009).
The notification of the technical opinion is given to the Proponent’s Legal Representative by way of a resolution. (Article 56, Decree 189-2009).
Based on the technical opinion, once the instrument of environmental assessment is approved or the EsIA with its mitigation measures, follow-up and control, the Environmental License is granted to the proponent (for a 2 year term), with the understanding that it is granted under the environmental conditions established in the assessment documents (Article 59, Decree 189-2009).
The review procedure of the request form and documents will last a period of 15 administrative working days for the projects Category 1, and 30 administrative working days for the projects Category 2 and 3. When the timeline has lapsed, the project, work or activity will be registered, and the respective Environmental License will be issued when it proceeds. (32.3 and 33.4, Decree 189-2009).
The timeline for the review of the presented EsIA is 60 administrative working days for Category 4 if they are not megaprojects and 80 administrative working days for Category 4 if they are megaprojects (Article 35, Decree 189-2009).
Self regulation is obligatory during the implementation of the activity, on having been granted or renewed the Environmental License or during recurrant environmental inspections and audits (Article 69, 70, DE-189-2009).
The control and follow-up of projects in Category 4 is obligatory after having defined the mitigation measures in the environmental license granted after the EIA procedure. These procedures can be carried out by the proponent, a consulting company contracted by the proponent, the personnel of the DECA or of the Environmental Units or a consulting firm contracted by the SERNA (Article 71, DE-189-2009).
In addition, if during the follow-up and control, new impacts not considered during the EIA are detected, the developer of the project must proceed to realize the mitigating measures dictated by the DECA. (Article 72, DE-189-2009).
The follow-up and control mechanisms can be done by any entity to whom the SERNA delegates (municipality, sector, institution or field unit).
It is possible to close in a temporary and definitive way, (total or partial), the activities or facilities, if there is pollution and harm to human health or the environment beyond the limits of the established regulations and technical norms (Article 87 of the General Law of the Environment, DE-104-1993).
In addition, according to the Article 108 (DE-189-2009), it is considered to be a fault in opposition to the SINEIA if:
- A project is initiated without possessing the corresponding Environmental License.
- It does not fulfill the mitigation measures and the Follow-up and Control Plan established.
- It alters, forges, modifies, changes, conceals or loses information, facts, statistics, numbers, analysis, results, reports and any oral and / or written information, which allows an environmental incorrect evaluation of a project.
Public participation requirements for ESIA process stages
According to the Article 87 (DE-189-2009), the SERNA encourages public participation during the process of environmental evaluation in all phases of those projects considered significant from the environmental point of view, according to the application of principles of proportionality and gradualism. When the terms of reference indicate it, as early as possible, the proponent must involve the project’s neighboring population in the process of elaboration of the EsIA and must propose the mechanisms of consultation during the review stage of the document (Article 88, Decree 189-2009).
For the projects of Category 2, 3 and 4, the Proponent must notify the start of the EIA. The public and the Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) can send their suggestions to the SERNA on the terms of reference for the EsIA (Article 37, Decree 189-2009).
Also for projects in Category 4, the Proponent must publish the end of the EsIA and when it is required by the SERNA, the proponent will have to present the results of the EsIA to open discussion meetings, public forums, hearings and to all medias that allow a discussion and exchange of ideas. (Article 52 and 89, DE-189-2009).
Any person, natural or juridical, that considers that the EsIA has not addressed important impacts or proposed suitable measures of mitigation, can ask the SERNA to include necessary amendments (Article 54, DE-189-2009).
The ESIA´s observations must be presented in writing to the SERNA (Article 53, DE-189-2009) and these can be oral in cases of open meetings, public forums and hearings.
It is up to the criteria of the DECA whether or not to include observations made by the public into the Terms of Reference for the elaboration of an EsIA. Independently of what is decided, the DECA must inform the interested parties on the attention they give to these observations, by using the same media used by them (Article 37, Decree 189-2009).
In the same way, it is up to the criteria of the SERNA to include the observations in the EsIA in the technical opinion which is a product of reviewing the EsIA. Independently of what it decides, the SERNA must respond to the person who presented the observations in a period of no more than 30 working days (Articles 53 and 54, DE-189-2009).
The results of the hearing or public forum, must be registered and taken in account in the SERNA´s final decision (Article 89, DE-189-2009).
The cost of the hearing or public forum must be assumed by the proponent (Article 89, DE-189-2009), as well as the expenses of DECA´s civil servants when they participate in a public consultation (Article 110, DE-189-2009).
Guidelines were developed for citizen participation by the Environmental Impact Assessment Project executed by the UICN and CCAD with SIDA's funds. There also is a Manual of Good Practices of Participation developed by the same Project.
Manual of Assessment and Environmental Control with established procedures and instruments for the process of participation during an EIA.
Timeline for public comments
- 15 administrative working days is the period in which the public can make observations to the SERNA on the terms of reference to elaborate an EsIA (Article 37, Decree 189-2009).
- 30 working days is the period in which the public can make observations about the EsIA, after being notified on the finalization of the EsIA by making a copy available to the public. (Article 28 and 53, DE-189-2009).
Access to information
At the beginning of an EIA, the proponent of projects in Categories 2, 3 and 4, must publish, in a newspaper of local and national coverage, a notice with the intention of realizing the project, what it is all about, its location and the intention of requesting an environmental license (Article 24.4, DE-189-2009).
Additionally, a bill board must be placed where the project is to be developed, indicating the name of the project, its location and the telephone and address of the Proponent where the public can obtain more information. (Article 26, DE-189-2009).
After the EsIA is delivered, the proponent of a project in Category 4, must notify about the ending of the EsIA (using the same information channels), in a way that the public can obtain the detailed results of the EsIA and must put a copy of the EsIA at the public’s disposition (Article 28, 52 and 53, DE-189-2009).
If deemed necessary, the proponent must present the results of the EsIA to open discussion meetings, public forums, hearings and to any other means that allow discussion and exchange of ideas (Article 52 and 89, DE-189-2009).
In Article 90 (DE-189-2009), it is stated that the corresponding authorities of the SINEIA will have an information system on environmental assessment, which allows interested parties to obtain information on processed and on pending cases, as well as the most relevant environmental information, including everything related to public participation or on civil society.
At the proponent’s request, some processes, technologies and methodologies, including parts of the documents on the environmental assessment delivered to the SINEIA authorities, can be considered confidential. (Article 27, DE-189-2009).
The proponent of projects in Categories 2, 3 and 4, on having started an EIA and that of Category 4, on having finished the EsIA, must notify, one time, in a newspaper of local and national coverage (in one eighth of a page) and over a broadcasting station at national and local levels in prime time at least three times a day for one day, radio spots up to a minute and no less than 15 seconds. Additionally, a bill board must be placed where the project is to be developed, indicating the name of the project, its location and the telephone and address of the Proponent where the public can obtain more information. (Article 26, DE-189-2009).
A copy of the EsIA for projects in category 4 is put at public’s view in the Municipal Environmental Unit or in the public library of the municipality where the project will be carried out (Article 28, DE-189-2009).
When it is necessary, the SERNA may order the organization of a meeting, public forum, and a hearing to have an open discussion of the project in review. (Article 89, DE-189-2009).
Possibilities for appeal
- The Proponent can manifest his objection, with regard to the Terms of Reference, to the SERNA, in a maximum period of 10 working days after he is communicated. The SERNA, for their part, has 15 working days to answer (Article 39, DE-189-2009).
- The Proponent can appeal if he has an objection with the technical opinion (on which the environmental license is based), in a maximum period of 10 administrative working days once the opinion is issued (Article 56, DE-189-2009).
- In addition, according to the Article 80 of the General Law of the Environment, any person can denounce before the competent authority, the execution of polluting or degrading activities.
(Article 91 of the General Law of the Environment, DE-104-1993),
The Legal framework is the General Law of the Environment (Decree No. 104 of 1993) and the Regulation of the SINEIA issued under the Ministerial Agreement No. 189-2009 (December 31,2009).
National detailed regulation for ESIA
Ministerial Agreement No. 189-2009 (December 31, 2009) issued by the Constitutional President of the Republic.
- Manual for Environmental Assessment and Control.
- Technical environmental norms.
- Guidelines for good environmental practices for generic of specific productive activities or productive (sub)sectors (article 105, Decree 189-2009).
The Technical Norms and Guides to Good Environmental Practices that are available, serve as one of the reference parameters at the moment of assessing the impacts of a project, which is part of the environmental process found in the SINEIA Form F-02, along with the proponents commitments and the project activities in the monitoring and control stages and its audits. (Articles 106 and 107, ED189-2009).
Sector specific procedures or regulations on EIA
The following regulations are in draft version and in process of approval:
- Regulation of a consultation system, environmental complaints and denouncements.
- Regulation on a National Registry for Providers of Environmental Services.
- Regulation on Environmental Audits.
- Regulation on emission control generated by fixed sources.
- Regulation on integrated management of residual wastes.
- National Regulation of discharge and reutilization of residual water.
- Regulation for the rational environmental management of hazardous chemical substances in Honduras.
- Regulation on road transportation of goods and hazardous wastes in the Republic of Honduras.
Exemptions from ESIA application
Article 99 of Decree189-2009, indicates that any action executed during a state of emergency, as well as the ones developed after the formally declared end of the same and during the following 60 days after that, will not require any kind of environmental assessment whenever they are directly linked to the prevention, mitigation and minimization of the negative effects of natural disasters or catastrophic events.
All the activities covered by the procedure of exemption, shall be registered with SERNA within no more than a month after the event in order to have a historical record.
Scope of ESIA application
Article 24 (Decree189-2009) establishes that all projects, construction work or activity, both public and private, should have an environmental license before execution. Moreover Article 6 of Decree 189-2009 establishes that SINEIA has the fundamental responsibility to provide environmental assessment and control of new human activities or any operation capable of generating adverse affects on the environment.
Central ESIA authority
DECA is the division of SERNA responsible for coordinating SINEIA and ensuring the mandatory implementation of EIA for all projects potentially polluting the environment and degrading natural resources. Among its tasks are the issuing of reports and technical opinions in the environmental field, previous authorization of, concession and granting of operational permits for productive or commercial businesses and for execution of both public and private projects (Articles 9 y 10 Decree189-2009). When necessary, DECA can rely on help from any other organization of SERNA to collaborate in the licensing and the environmental control process (Article 11 of ED189-2009).
(De)centralisation of ESIA mandates
In the functions of SINEIA intervene SERNA; DECA and when it is necessary and possible, the municipalities through their Environmental Municipal Units (UMA) and any other Public Administration institution either centralized or decentralized through their Environmental Management Units (UGA) (Articles 4.46, 7, 18 y 19 of ED-189-2009).
Following the principle of decentralization, SERNA, by an agreement, can delegate the environmental licensing process to municipalities or institutions from sectors that manage environmental resources outside the scope of the SERNA. Also, the environmental licensing process can be geographically decentralized in its regional offices (Article 81, ED-189-2009).
To do this, SERNA will elaborate an accreditation system which defines criteria that the municipalities should meet, or public institutions that solicit the right to delegate environmental licensing. For this, they will make an assessment of the technical, legal and administrative capacity of the municipality, sectoral institution or regional office, which might be able to assume the environmental licensing procedure. (Article 82, ED-189-2009).
Before handing in a request for an environmental license to the corresponding SINEIA authority, all projects must pay an expedition fee to the corresponding SINEIA authority that depends on the amount of the cost of the project (Article 24.3 and 109 of the Decree 189-2009).
In addition, for projects in Category 4 it is necessary to cover a guarantee bond for the risks and environmental impacts identified in the EIA process. The proponent and his team can choose one of two alternatives available to acquire this guarantee: by depositing the specified amount in a national guarantees fund (in the General Treasury of the Republic) or by buying an environmental insurance through an insurance company (Article 41, 42 and 43 of the Decree 189-2009).
Annual no. of ESIAs
Number of instruments approved by amount of investment for SERNA's DECA of Honduras in the year 2009 are the following:
- Less than 200,000 Lempiras, 22
- 200,000 - 1,000,000 Lempiras, 131
- 1,000,000 - 10,000,000 Lempiras, 464
- 10,000,000-20,000.000 Lempiras, 40
- More than 20,000,000 Lempiras, 94
- with a total of 751 approved instruments
Central ESIA database
In spite of the fact that SERNA's Website (www.ccad.ws/serna/) arranges the list on the state of affairs of the projects being processed, along with other information, the majority of the website is not functioning.
- Background of SERNA: http://www.ccad.ws/SERNA/institucional/antecedentes.htm
- General direction of environmental management: http://www.ccad.ws/serna/ambiente/dga/index.html
- Mision, vision organizational structure and functions of DECA:
- Summary of main articles related to the environment: http://www.ccad.ws/SERNA/ambiente/deca/legislacion.htm
- Summary of the regulations that are in process for approval:www.cnpml-honduras.org