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Updated to: 25 February 2015Download as PDF
Ministry of Environment and Sustainable development
Calle 37 No. 8-40
Tel: (0057)-1- 3323434 / 3323400
History of ESIA
In 1973 the legal system of Colombia incorporated the first environmental law; the Law No. 23. The President then issued Decree-Law 2811 of 1974, known as the National Natural Resources Code. The Code introduced the conservation of natural resources and the environment. It already required environmental impact assessments through its Articles 28 and 29. It provided for a declaration of environmental effect but left decisions to the discretion of the environmental authority.
With the issuing of the Environment Law (Law 99) of 1993, the process to obtain an environmental licence was defined and related responsibilities determined. The law 99 established the creation of the Ministry of the Environment (now Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development). The issue of “Sustainable development”, launched at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, was essential for the issuing of the Law 99.
Since 1993, it is required to elaborate an EIA prior to the execution of any investments that affect the environment. The Ministry of the Environment and the regional environmental authorities make decisions concerning environmental licensing.
Thereafter, several EIA regulations have been issued to optimize the environmental licensing scheme. Decrees of the years 1994, 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2010 altered the scope of application of the EIA procedures and regulated the functions of the environmental authorities.
Overview ESIA procedure
The EIA process in Colombia consists of Screening, Scoping, Assessment, Review, a decision on the granting of an environmental license and Monitoring.
Main documents resulting from the EIA process are: Starting document (Screening), Terms of Reference (Scoping), Environmental Analysis of Alternatives document (if applicable), EIA report, and an Environmental License document.
Screening is a required step of the EIA process. Environmental licensing is required only for projects, works and activities as specified in article 8 (within the mandate of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development/ANLA) and 9 (within the mandate of the decentralised authorities, such as the Regional Autonomous Corporations) of the Decree 2820.
The proponent files a written request directly to the competent environmental authority if an environmental license is required. The request has to include a description, objective and scope of the project and its location. This information will determine if the project, work or activity requires the elaboration of an environmental diagnosis of alternatives.
Decree 2820 - 2010 regulates what activities, projects or works require environmental licences. Its Articles 8 and 9 provide an inclusive list of project organized in sectors. It is based on criteria of sensitivity of the area, on project criteria and on environmental parameters.
The regulation stipulates that if an analysis of alternatives is not required; only an environmental impact assessment study is required according to the Terms of Reference of the Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development.
Projects which affect the areas of national parks are the responsibility of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development.
When projects intervene in the wetlands included in the list of wetlands of international importance (RAMSAR) or highland moors and mangroves, the competent environmental authority must request prior approval of the Ministry of Environment, Housing and Territorial Development (now the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development) (Article 10 of Decree 2820).
Projects, works or activities requiring removal of national forest reserves are responsibility of the Ministry.
The Mining Law (No. 1382 of 2010) stipulates in Article 34 that no mining activities are allowed in protected areas.
Contents of the starting document
For the process of screening a report is required with the following content:
1. Unique environmental license sheet;
2. Maps of the location of the project, work or activity;
3. Description of the project, work or activity;
4. Estimated cost of investment and operation of the project;
6. Payment receipt for the environmental assessment;
7. Legal documents;
8. Certificate of the Ministry of the Interior and Justice on presence or not of ethnic communities in the area of influence of the project;
9. Certificate of INCODER on the existence or not of legally qualified territories with indigenous peoples or communal land titles of afrocolombian people in the area of influence of the project;
10. Copy of the filing of the request to the Preventive Archaeology Program of the Colombian Institute of Archaeology and History.
Those interested in mining /oil and gas projects must provide a copy of the mining/oil or gas exploration title and/or the concession contract issued and registered by the national mining registry or the oil and gas registry.
Timeline is fifteen (15) working days. From filing of the request, the environmental authority shall take a decision of the need to submit an analysis of the alternatives, enclosing the terms of reference for elaboration of the analysis and/or EIA according to the case within 15 days.
Scoping is mandatory in Colombia, specific requirements for it are provided legally.
The proponent should develop the environmental impact assessment (EIA) and/or environmental alternative diagnosis (DAA) considering the terms of reference formulated by the environmental authority. The Terms of Reference determine the intention, scope and content of the environmental study. The terms of reference should be based on the general methodology for the presentation of environmental studies established by resolution no. 1503 in 2010.
The Terms of Reference for the environmental impact assessment and the environmental diagnosis of alternatives is reviewed by the competent environmental authority. The competent authority can be the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Develoment (ANLA), the Regional Autonomous Corporation or Corporation of Sustainable Development or the District of major cities. The authority may adapt the terms of reference to the particularities of the project, work or activity.
Contents of the scoping document
The contents of the scoping document should be based on the General Methodology for the Presentation of Environmental Studies (1503-2010)
15 days upon receipt of the request for an environmental license
As part of the assessment process, the proponent can firstly be required to prepare an environmental analysis of alternatives, depending on the decision of the competent environmental authority. The competent environmental authority reviews the environmental analysis of the alternatives and decides on the alternatives for which the proponent should develop the environmental impact assessment. If no such an analysis is required, the proponent directly prepares the environmental impact assessment.
The proponent must elaborate the EIA in accordance with the general methodology for the presentation of environmental studies, developed by the Ministry of Environment, Housing and Territorial Development (now the Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development). The methodology describes the official sources of information, the methodology for the identification and assessment of environmental impacts.
The environmental impact assessment includes biological, physical and socio-economical impacts. Quantitative and qualitative assessment criteria that are used for it can be the following: area of influence, magnitude, duration, resilience, reversibility, periodicity, type and possibility of occurrence of impacts. Maximum permissible limits of pollutants as defined in the environmental legislation can be used to evaluate and rank impacts. Moreover, the risks of the construction and operation of the project should be taken as reference. Economic evaluation is another important tool used to assess impacts. It includes an economical evaluation of environmental impacts and the environmental cost benefit analysis.
Metodología General para la Presentación de Estudios Ambientales normado por la Resolución 1503 -2010
Contents of the EIA report
The general methodology for the presentation of environmental studies, developed by the Ministry of Environment, Housing and Territorial Development (now the Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development) gives the following indication about the content of the EIA report (see also article 21 of Decree 2820):
- Identification of the environmental impacts and the impact assessment is elaborated in the direct and indirect area of influence and consist the following elements:
- Physical (geology, hydrology, quality of air, water and soil, water, climate, noise)
- Biological (ecosystems, flora and fauna)
- Environmental management plan
- Zoning of environmental management measures
- Monitoring Program
- Contingency plan
- Abandonment and final restoration plan
Accreditation of consultants
There is no legislation on accreditation of consultants
The review process starts with the proponent's request for an environmental licence. The environmental authorities shall take the general criteria defined in the manual of environmental impact assessment elaborated by the MAVDT (2002), now Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, for the review of the environmental impact assessment study. More recently, the General Methodology for the Presentation of Environmental Studies (1503-2010) has been published. This document is used for the review process.
After the presentation of the EIA by the proponent the competent environmental authority has 5 working days to start the review process. The competent environmental authority can request within 15 working days information from other authorities or entities. The required information should be submitted within 20 working days. If necessary additional documents or information are requested from the applicant. In this case the response time is suspended until the additional information is presented.
Integration of ESIA into decision-making
EIA is required in all cases where an environmental license is required. It thus results in the issuing or rejecting of an environmental license. Such a license is required for the approval of the project, work or activity and it must be obtained prior to its start. The environmental license is the decision document.
Competent environmental authorities to grant or reject environmental license are as follows:
Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development and specifically the National Environmental Licensing Authority (ANLA) are responsible for the environmental licensing and permitting process at national level.
The regional environmental authorities and the regional corporations of sustainable development;
Municipalities, districts and metropolitan areas whose urban population is exceeding one million inhabitants in the urban area;
Environmental authorities of the districts Baranquilla, Santa Marta and Cartagena. The districts of Cartagena, Santa Marta and Barranquilla exercise the same functions as the regional autonomous environmental corporations ( Law no. 768 approved in 2002);
Territorial entities which are delegated by regional autonomous corporations and/or regional corporations of sustainable development, except for the realization of projects, works or activities undertaken by the same territorial entity. Territorial entities must have particularly technical, economic, administrative and operational capacity to serve as delegates.
The environmental license should give a summary of environmental considerations and motivations that have been taken into consideration in the issuing of the license.
The start of the license procedure should be published.
The Environmental Law (No. 99) establishes the obligation concerning the publication of the decision.
Decisions on environmental licenses are published in a bulletin (Gaceta Ambiental) of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development.
The competent environmental authority shall decide on the license of the project, work or activity, within a maximum period of twenty-five (25) working days.
The EIA includes the Monitoring and Supervision Program. The environmental authority that issued the environmental license is responsible for authorized projects, works and activities.
Public participation requirements for ESIA process stages
If the project, work or activity develops within territory of an indigenous community, a consultation is mandatory during the assessment process.
A public audience might be performed before the issuance of the administrative act which approves, rejects or modifies the environmental license, but always after the presentation of environmental impact assessment study to the environmental authority.
Public participation is an obligation to obtain an environmental license for oil and gas projects. The National Oil Agency developed a manual for exploration and production of oil and gas in socially sensitive areas. The manual describes a methodology for participation.
In 2007 the Office of the Inspector General prepared public participation guidelines.
Access to information
Any person may request information about the status of the environmental assessment of a project, work or activity subject to environmental license. The request can be directed to the competent environmental authority that is involved with the environmental assessment procedure.
Possibilities for appeal
The applicant (and government agencies, individual citizens, public interest groups (NGOs) and private parties) can appeal against the decision on the environmental license which is granted or rejected. The appeal is filed with the same environmental authority that took the decision.
Decree-Law 2811 of 1974: National Natural Resources Code
National detailed regulation for ESIA
The Decree 1753 of 1994 regulated the environmental licenses and specified the procedures to be followed.
- Decree 2820 (2010)
- Website of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development (website in Spanish)
- Environmental Information System of Colombia (Sistema de Información Ambiental de Colombia) (website in Spanish)
- Regulations on the website of the National Environmental Licensing Authority (ANLA) (website in Spanish)
- ”Guidelines for environmental impact assessment studies, criteria and procedures” (2002) prepared by the Andres Bello Convention, commissioned by the Bureau of Environmental licenses of the Ministry of Environment, Housing and Territorial Development (now the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development).
- ”Guidelines for Civil Participation” elaborated by the Office of the Inspector General (Procuraduría General de la Nacion), 2007.
- The National Oil Agency developed guidelines on the participation of indigenous and black communities in the EIA process in 2008: ”Manual on the management for exploration and production of hydrocarbons in socially sensitive areas, communities, and environmental vulnerable areas”.
- General methodology for the presentation of environmental studies (2010) developed by MAVDT (now the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development)
Sector specific procedures or regulations on EIA
The Mining Law No. 1382 approved in 2010 (amended Law 685 2001) establishes that an environmental license for mining activities is compulsory in accordance with the Environmental Law (Law 99) and its regulations.
Specific regulations for EIA for mining activities were formulated by Ministry of Environment, Housing and Territorial Development (now the Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development):
- Terms of Reference for EIA of mining explotation (2010)
- Terms of Reference for EIA open pit gold mining (2010)
The Ministry of Interior and Justice plays a role in the Civil Participation in the process of EIA.
Exemptions from ESIA application
Law 99 of 1993 established exclusive powers for the Ministry of the Environment in relation to activities that are considered to be of national public interest and that have a bearing on key sectors in the economic development of the country. It remains unclear if this means that the Ministry can exempt an activity from the EIA process though, as the Decree 2820 does not specify criteria or projects/activities for exemption of EIA.
Scope of ESIA application
The EIA applies to all public and private works, activities and projects mentioned in decree No. 2820 2010. EIA is required prior to the investments.
Central ESIA authority
The National Environmental authority is the Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development. The Ministry had been renamed several times. Art. 6 of Law 99, created the initial Ministry of the Environment in 1993. The Ministry of the Environment, Housing and Territorial Development (MAVDT) followed which was split up in 2011. Since then the Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development is the central EIA authority.
Decree 2820 - 2010 regulates the functions of the Ministry of Environment, Housing and Territorial Development (now the Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development). The Ministry delegates its attributions and functions on environmental management, natural resources conservation and management of national parks to the Vice-Ministry of Environment.
In 2011, the National Environmental Licensing Authority (ANLA) was established through Decree 3573 Article 2. The Authority is part of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development. It is responsible for the environmental licensing and permitting process for the projects, works or activities to comply with environmental regulations, so as to contribute to environmentally sustainable development of the country.
Other key (governmental) parties involved in ESIA, and their roles
The Ministry of Mining and Energy regulates the mining, energy, oil and gas activities. The Legal Framework of Mining (Law No. 685 of 2001 reformed by Law No. 1382 of 2010) establishes environmental license obligations prior to mining activities according to Law 99 and its decrees.
The Ministry of Interior and Justice plays a role in civil participation.
(De)centralisation of ESIA mandates
Regional and local environmental authorities are:
- The Regional Autonomous Corporations (CAR) and Corporations of Sustainable Development. The regional environmental authorities can delegate their competencies to Territorial Entities, unless in the case of the realization of projects, works or activities undertaken by the same territorial entity. Territorial Entities must especially have technical, economic, administrative and operational capacity to exercise the delegated functions.
At district / city level the environmental authorities are:
- Municipalities, districts and metropolitan areas whose urban population exceeds one million inhabitants of the urban area.
- Environmental authorities of the districts Baranquilla, Santa Marta and Cartagena. The districts of Cartagena, Santa Marta and Barranquilla exercise the same functions delegated to the Regional Autonomous Corporations (Law 768 of 2002).
Decreto 2820 2010, Ley 768, 2002
Environmental authorities may charge for evaluation and monitoring of the environmental license. This is regulated in the Law and its regulations. Costs of the above services are charged by the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development. Payments are made to a special sub-account of the National Environmental Fund (Fondo Nacional the Ambiente, FONAM) and will be used to cover the costs of evaluation and monitoring related to the costs of the Ministry for the provision of these services.
Annual no. of ESIAs
In the period of 1994-1999 a total of 1536 EIAs were administered by the MAVDT (Directorate of Environmental Licenses and Permissions) (this does not include EIAs processed by the Regional Autonomous Corporations (CARs).
- www.iaia.org/ case study Colombia por I.Acosta http://www.iaia.org/publicdocuments/EIA/CaseStudies/ColombiaStudy.pdf
Central ESIA database
The central online environmental system ( VITAL) is a system that unifies all the administrative procedures of environmental management plans and environmental licenses at national level. Implementation of VITAL is in its initial stage.
The Minstry has a bulletin: “La Gaceta Ambiental”, which publishes the EIAs which are approved by the Ministry.
The Directorate of Environmental Licenses and Permissions, (depends on the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development), currently ANLA, administers a register of environmental licenses that are pending, granted or rejected.
- Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies (Instituto de Hidrología, Meteorología y Estudios Ambientales;IDEAM)