SEA profile

Updated to: 27 June 2011

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SEA background

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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

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

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Framework/Enabling law

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

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

First national detailed SEA regulation

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

Specific sectorial regulations do not exist yet.


  • 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

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

Scope of SEA application

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

No exemptions indicated 

SEA approach

The methodology of EAE is different as compared to EIA.

SEA tiering with EIA

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

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Central SEA authority

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

(De)centralisation of SEA mandates

The decision making is done at a national level.

Initiator of the SEA

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

SEA procedure

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Establishing context

Screening requirement and authority


Screening process

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

Not specified.

Identification of stakeholders

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

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

Implementing the SEA

Scoping process

Properly speaking, a separate scoping process does not exist.

Participation in scoping

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



Assessment/mitigation of effects

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

Not required.

Content of SEA report

  • Maps that contain environmentally fragile indexes.
  • Conclusions.

SEA review

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

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

Timeline review

Not specified.

Informing and influencing decision-making

SEA and planning decision-making

SEA approval required before adopting plan.

Recommendations for decision-making

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


Monitoring requirement

Not required or specified.

Evaluation requirement


SEA practice

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Annual no. of SEAs

> 25.

Central SEA database

Case studies

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

  • EAE of The Regulatory Plan for Tibas.

Professional bodies

  • 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

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


SEA links

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Links to laws/regulation

Other relevant links on SEA

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