ESIA profile

Updated to: 27 June 2011

Download as PDF

Contact & history

to the top

Country contact

Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN)
Adress: 20 calle 28-58 zona 10, edificio  MARN
Ciudad Guatemala
Tel:  (502) 2423-0500

General Directory of Environmental Management and Natural Resources  
Adress: 20 calle 28-58 zona 10, Edificio MARN, 2do Nivel, Torre II
Tel: (502) 2423-0500 or 2202

History of ESIA

In Guatemala the legislation of environmental impact assessment began in 1986, based on the Law for Environmental Protection and Improvement (Decree No. 68-86) and with the creation of the National Committee for the Environment (Comisión Nacional del Medio Ambiente; CONAMA). In 1990, the CONAMA approved the "instruction for EIA procedure", which was in force until 1997. The Law for Environmental Protection and Improvement was amended in 1993. It modified and extended Article 8, to give competition to the CONAMA on approval of Environmental Impact Assessment Studies, prior to the implementation of a project. The competences for EIA approval were transferred to the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN) in 1997.

In 1998 CONAMA issued a new EIA procedure which was in force until January 2003. The 2003 regulation for environmental assessment, control and monitoring (Governmental Agreement No. 23) set out the procedures for the evaluation, control and monitoring procedure. In 2002 the Central American Plan for environmental impact assessment was approved, which had a clear influence on instruments contained in the national regulation of  2003. This regulation was amended in 2007 (by Governmental Agreement No. 431-2007). This is the current regulation. This was a centralized system let by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources. However, in 2009 departmental and regional delegations of the MARN were created (by Ministerial Agreement no. 676). Those delegations were assigned, among other things, provisions of EIA of agreement No. 431-2007 in order to streamline and improve the system of EIA.

Environmental guidelines for construction, tourism, agricultural and agribusiness were issued by Ministerial Agreement (No. 266-2010) as instruments of technical guidance for the strengthening of environmental impact assessment studies.

Major milestones:

  • 1986. Law for the Protection and Improvement of the Environment.
  • 1990. CONAMA issued the first procedure in EIA.
  • 1993. Reform of the law for the Protection and Improvement of the Environment. Gives competence to the CONAMA on approval of the EIA.
  • 1997. Creation of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources. Acquired competencies of EIA.
  • 1998. CONAMA emit new procedure of the EIA.
  • 2002. Central American Action Plan in EIA.
  • 2003. Regulation on Environmental Assessment, Control and Monitoring (Agreement No. 23-2003).
  • 2007. Regulation on Environmental Assessment, Control and monitoring (Agreement No. 431-2007) to respond to the new national reality and new demands of free trade agreements in the topic environment.
  • 2007. Issuing of the environmental guide for the urban infrastructure sector (Agreement No. No. 399-2007).
  • 2009. Ministerial Agreement No. 676-2009 on the creation of the regional and departmental delegations of MARN (EIA decentralization).
  • 2010. Ministerial Agreement No. 266 approves the environmental guidelines.
  • 2010. Approval of the socio-environmental guides as mandatory for projects of prevention, recovery and reconstruction to catastrophic events (Ministerial Agreement No. 267-2010).

Legal framework

to the top

Framework/Enabling law

The legal framework for EIA is provided by the Environmental Protection and Improvement Law (Protección y Mejoramiento del Medio Ambiente), (Decree No. 68-86) from 1986, which was amended in 1993.

Environmental Information System of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources: in Spanish:   y
Legalization of Central America:
System of document consultation EIA:
Projects of EIA of public consultation, in Spanish:
Public Information of projects which are approved, rejected or in process:

National detailed regulation for ESIA

Regulation on environmental assessment, control and monitoring (Government Agreement No.23). 

The regulation was amended in 2007 (Government Agreement No. 431)


The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources elaborated a guide for environmental management in the urban infrastructure sector in 2007 in cooperation with IUCN and CCAD. This guide was approved in 2007 (Government Agreement No. 399). During 2008, guides for the agro-industry, tourism and agriculture sector were elaborated. These are included as instruments in the EIA process. These guidelines are compulsory. (guias socio-ambientales),,

Sector specific procedures or regulations on EIA

The Mining Law requires a EIA process for mining activities. Article 20 of the Mining Law provides that those interested in obtaining a mining license, must submit a study of environmental impact to the corresponding entity for review and approval of the respective license. The study should be submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources. When the project is within a protected area the proposer must submit the EIA to the National Council of Protected Areas (Consejo Nacional de Áreas Protegidas CONAP). 

Ley de Minería, decreto no. 48-97,

Scope of ESIA application

Any project, work, industry or any other activity which can produce deterioration of renewable natural resources or the environment; or which modifies landscapes or cultural national heritage, requires an environmental impact assessment. Categories of Environmental Impact are A, B1, B2, and C.

Ley Protección y Mejoramiento Ambiental articulo 8 (1993)

Exemptions from ESIA application

According to the environmental assessment regulation, all actions executed during a State of Exception (disaster or natural disaster) and 60 days thereafter - provided that they are linked directly with mitigating and provided they minimize the negative effects of the catastrophic event - are exempted from any environmental assessment. However, it is required to register all such activities with the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN).

In 2010 socio-environmental guidelines for prevention, recovery and reconstruction projects aimed at mitigation of catastrophic events were approved (Ministerial Agreement No. 267).

Reglamento de Evaluación, Control y Seguimiento (431-2007) sus articulos 59 hasta 62

Institutional setting

to the top

Central ESIA authority

The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN) is the central authority. Its functions are exercised through their Directorates. The MARN has ten directorates.
Important for the EIA are the following: General Directorate for Environmental Management and Natural Resources (DIGARN), GD of National Coordination, and GD of Legal Affairs.

DIGARN, is structured by two formal units and one in construction:
1. Environmental quality
2. Water resources and watershed
3. Environmental monitoring and control (under construction).
The DIGARN deals with categories with high impact (A, B1) and megaprojects and serve the MARN Delegation of the City of Guatemala, for the purposes of the environmental assessment.
The Directorate of National Coordination to which the MARN delegations belong, process the categories with low impact (C and B2).

MARN was created in 2000 Legislative Decree o no. 90 approved by the Congress: “Ley de Creación del Ministerio de Ambiente y Recursos Naturales”.

Other key (governmental) parties involved in ESIA, and their roles

The Ministry of Energy and Mining (MEM), including its social-environmental management unit is a major authority involved in environmental management. The social-environmental management unit of the MEM has the following functions:

  • Advise on policies, regulations and standards in mining, energy, and hydrocarbon issues.
  • Advise on the issue of protection of the environment for mining and hydrocarbons activities.
  • Analyze, evaluate and advise on environmental impact assessment studies submitted for consideration; the supervision and control of implementation of mitigation measures set out in environmental impact assessment studies.
  • Perform the monitoring and control of the activities in areas of influence of MEM.
  • Coordination between the MEM, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN), the National Council of Protected Areas (CONAP) and other related institutions involved in the environmental theme.

The National Council of Protected Areas (Consejo Nacional de Áreas Protegidas, CONAP) plays an important role in environmental assessments for projects, works or activities in protected areas.  

(De)centralisation of ESIA mandates

The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN) has a deconcentrated structure. There are regional and departmental delegations. The Directorate of the National Coordination of the MARN coordinates the activities of the delegations. Delegations are the actors that shape the policies of the MARN in the regions. However, the General Directorate of the MARN is the decision-maker in the case of environmental assessments. The delegations approve projects categorized as B2 and C, corresponding to very low and low impact.

Acuerdo Ministerial no. 676-2009

Payment system

The proponent pays to the MARN through the agencies of the National Bank System.  This Bank manages the MARN revenues.

ESIA procedure

to the top


Screening process

For the classification process ("screening") "initial environmental assessments" have to be elaborated. The unique counter of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN) provides a format for this evaluation. All legal data of the company and their legal representative have to be provided. These documents are forwarded to the Directorate of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (DIGARN). In the screening process a brief list of classification is used, as well as criteria’s of localization within fragile environmental areas or areas with national spatial planning. The list will be issued and may only be modified by Ministerial Agreement. The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN), through the DIGARN determines category of those projects, works, industries or activities which are not listed in the prescriptive listing. It may also occur that the proposer presents directly the document of screening without waiting for the classification by the MARN instrument.
The screening resolution provides decision on categorization. There are four different categories:

  • Category A: high potential impact on the environment or environmental risk.
  • Category B1: moderate to high potential impact on the environmental or environmental risk.
  • Category B2: moderate to low potential environmental impact or environmental risk.
  • Category C: low potential impact and/or environmental risk.


Sensitive areas

The classification process takes into account the location of project, work, industry or activity in fragile areas. Initiatives developed in the protected areas require a revision of the National Council of Protected Areas (Consejo Nacional de Áreas Protgidas, CONAP) according to the master plan of the protected area (mandatory for all categories). The protected areas are registered and controlled by the Guatemalteco System of Protected Areas (Sistema Guatemalteco de Áreas Protegidas, SIGAP). 

Contents of the starting document

This classification process is based on the document of initial environmental assessment. The document has the following content:

  • Legal information.
  • General information; description of the project at the stage of construction, operation and closure, location of the project, data of climate and geography of the area where the project will be developed.
  • Identifying the use and consumption of water, fuels, lubricants, and other inputs.
  • Specifying transport.
  • Identifying the impacts that can be generated by the project, work, industry or activity (environmental impacts box). Impacts include environmental, social, economic, archaeological and cultural impacts.
  • Demand and consumption of energy.
  • Risks related to the project work, industry or activity.

Initial Environmental Assessment Format "Unique Counter/ Ventanilla Única" of the Ministery of Environment and Natural Recourses.


Scoping process

There is no formal scoping process. The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN) has developed and promotes the Terms of Reference guidelines for the elaboration of an environmental impact assessment study.

Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism No. R. 385 21 April 2006, Regulations in Terms of Chapter 5 of the National Environmental Management Act, 1998

Contents of the scoping document

If resolution of classification (category A and B1) obliges an EIA, the Terms of Reference have to be elaborated.


Assessment process

For category C and B1 a simple environmental assessment is elaborated. In the unique counter of MARN a form of environmental diagnosis for low impact projects is provided. Approved social- environmental guidelines should be used.

For category A and B2 (high and moderate environmental impact potential) the environmental impact assessment is elaborated according to the Terms of Reference defined in the scoping process. The EIA study determines potential risks and environmental impacts in their area of influence, included a plan for environmental management, a contingency plan and an analysis of social and economic impacts for the population.
The MARN promotes environmental assessments by sector support guidelines.

Contents of the EIA report

According to the guide of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources an EIA must address the following topics:

  • Summary;
  • Introduction;
  • Overview;
  • Description of the project;
  • Description of the legal framework;
  • Finance of the investment;
  • Description of the impacts in soil, water and air;    
  • Biological environment description;
  • Description of the social-economic and cultural effects;
  • Description of alternatives;
  • Identifying environmental impacts and determination of mitigation measures;
  • Environmental management plan;
  • Risk analysis and Plan of Contingency; 
  • Environment modified by the development of the project work, industry or activity;
  • References of literature.

Accreditation of consultants

Consultants and consultant firms must be accredited by the MARN to be able to conduct EIA studies. They should demonstrate experience of at least of 120 hours in environmental assessment. The DIGARN administers a register of accredited consulting firms and consultants.


Review process

The proposer presents the environmental impact assessment study and/or the environmental management plan to the DIGARN for review.

The proponent and the DIGARN advise the civil society through th media that the documents are available at the DIGARN. The public has the possibility to give their comments. The DIGARN reviews all documents and takes into account public comments. The DIGARN requests the sectors’ advice where projects have a sectoral scope. The review is performed by the multidisciplinary team of the DIGARN. Depending on the study, field verification is done by the DIGARN technicians or staff of the departmental delegations. The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN) emits the resolution of approval or rejection.

In the case of projects, works, industries, and/or activities of category C y B2 (low impact) the departmental delegations review the information. If the information meets the requirements established by law and regulations the environmental license will be issued.

Review expertise

The National Council of Protected Areas (CONAP) is involved in case of projects, works, industry or activities in protected areas. In the case of mining investments, hydrocarbons or energy, the DIGARN requestes an opinion from the social-environmental unit of the Ministry of Energy and Mining (MEM).

Timeline Review

The DIGARN has 15 days to review projects from category B, after the documentation is submitted, and 10 days in the case of category C.
The procedure for category A projects requires more time for review. The timeline for the review of the environmental impact assessment study of category A is 2 months and 4 months when the project is considered to be a national mega-project.

Decision making

to the top

Integration of ESIA into decision-making

The environmental license is a requirement for the approval of a project, work and/or activity that can cause negative environmental impact. The environmental impact assessment is mandatory in cases of projects, works or activities considered as high/moderate environmental potential impacts.

In cases of projects, works, industry, and activities that correspond to the category A and B1, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN) issues the final resolution for the environmental license through the Directorate-General for Environmental Management and Natural Resources (DIGARN). In the case of category C and B2 (low impact), the departmental delegations issue the resolutions.
(The Ministerial Agreement 676-2009 declares that the category B2 projects are handled by the departmental delegations; in the case of the delegation Guatemala City, this is done in part by the DIGARN).

In the review phase the different emitted opinions or analyzed. After that, the final opinion is emitted on the approval of the license. This opinion is submitted to the Director of DG Environment Management and Natural Resources who by means of a resolution approves or rejects the environmental license. The projects of category A, where the resolution is signed by the Minister, the highest authority of the MARN.

Follow up

to the top

Compliance monitoring

The environmental management plan should incorporate a plan for monitoring.
In the case of category A, B1 and national mega-projects the MARN may require (additionally to environmental management plan), environmental instruments of control and monitoring (such as an environmental responsible expert, environmental records and periodic environmental reports).

Reglamento Evaluación, Control y Seguimiento articulo 45

Stakeholder engagement

to the top

Public participation requirements for ESIA process stages

The proponent should involve the public in the EIA process as soon as possible after the screening. In the initial environmental assessment ("screening") stage there is no participation of the public.

After the publication and submission of the environmental impact assessment study (and before the review), the public can submit their comments to the DIGARN or MARN delegations. Observations and comments are taken into account if they are presented in written and have a technical, scientific or legal support.

Timeline for public comments

The public can present its observations or opposition in written within 20 days after the publication of environmental assessment document, before the MARN, either the central DIGARN or the MARN delegations where appropriate.

Access to information

The proponent publishes a notice in coordination with the MARN about the availability of the environmental assessment for the public. This notice is published necessarily in a journal of national importance. The notice has at least the following information:

  • Name proponent;
  • Location;
  • Description of the project, work or activity;
  • Inform the public that within a period of 20 working days after the last publication in the national newspaper the public can send its observations and comments to the DIGARN or MARN delegations.

In the region where Mayan languages are used, the publication must also be written in their language (s) (multilingual information can be obtained at the National Institute of Statistics, INE)

The environmental impacts assessment studies and environmental management plans are available at the offices of the DIGARN (national level) or the MARN delegations (local level).

Information has been available in language Mayas where the language is dominant is sets by the legalization of Reglamento de Evaluación, Control y Seguimiento art. 75


to the top

Possibilities for appeal

Against the decisions of DIGARN in relation to approval of EIA, appeals can be filed according to the administrative law court. The proponent and the public can appeal against the decisions of the environmental resolution according to the regulations of public administration.

Ley de lo Contencioso Administrativo decreto 199-96 Ley de Protección y Mejoramiento del Medio Ambiente (articulos 30 y 37)

ESIA practice

to the top

Annual no. of ESIAs

The number of  EIAs (approximate numbers) processed by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources:
• 1999: 350;
• 2000: 480;
• 2001: 790;
• 2002: 660;
• 2003: 800.
These data relate not only to the Environmental Impact Assessments, but to all categories. EIAs are only elaborated in the cases of high to moderate impact (category A y B1).


Relevant links

Centre for Environmental and Social Legal Acción (Centro de Acción Legal Ambiental y Social, CALAS)

Network for Impact Assessment of Central America (website in English)

Website in Spanish of Work Group on EIA in Central America  Grupo de Trabajo de Evaluación de Impacto Ambiental de Centro-America