Environmental protection results in safe and healthy society
In a number of developing countries like ours, balancing poverty and socioeconomic needs with environmental concerns creates very pressing problems. To meet this challenge and to realize the spirit of the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1992, a number of countries formulated strategic environmental sustainability policies to: a) include environmental concerns in their mission statements; b) develop long-term objectives; c) generate alternative strategies to pursue those objectives; d) implement strategies to devise policies, motivate employees, and allocate resources so that the formulated strategies can be executed; e) monitor the execution of strategies and make adjustments according to feedback; and f) assess whether the strategies actually fulfill the countries’ mission statements.
Realizing that natural resources are the foundation of an economy, Ethiopia has attempted to develop a policy to protect its ecosystems. To counteract the short term results of economic and technical policies of the past and to meet the needs of present and future generations “the first comprehensive statements of Environmental Policy for the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia were approved by the Council of Ministers in April 1997.
By proclamation No. 9/1995 the Ethiopian Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has created an environmental policy, as well as legal and regulatory reforms to manage its environmental and natural resources. The overall aim of the Ethiopian Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) is to “… improve and enhance the health and quality of life of all Ethiopians and to promote sustainable social and economic development through the sound management and use of natural, human-made and cultural resources and the environment as a whole so as to meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (EPA, 2010). Some of the specific duties of the Ethiopian Protection Authority include: to prepare environmental protection policy and laws, and upon approval, follow up their implementation, to prepare directives and systems necessary for evaluating the impact of social and economic development projects on the environment; monitor and follow up their implementation.
Stated differently, the mandate of the Ethiopian Environmental Protection Authority is to manage, protect, conserve, and sustain the environment and the natural resources of the country. Through sustainable management of the environment and natural resources, it is expected that the economic and social conditions of Ethiopia will be greatly improved and all Ethiopians will lead productive lives in a healthy environment. More specifically, keeping in mind the organization’s overall aim and principles of action such as compliance and regulatory requirements, the policy objectives of the Ethiopian Environmental Protection Authority seek to communicate the following environmental priorities: ensuring essential ecological processes and life support systems are sustained, preserving biological diversity, seeing that renewable natural resources are used in such a way that their generative and productive capabilities are maintained, ensuring that the exploitation of non-renewable resources is managed wisely to extend the benefits far into the future.
It has also attached due emphasis to: identifying under-utilized natural resources by finding new technologies for their development, incorporating the full economic, social, and environmental costs of natural resources development into the planning, implementation, and accounting process by a comprehensive evaluation of the environment and the services it provides, improving the environment of human settlements to satisfy the physical, social, economic, and cultural needs of their inhabitants on a sustainable basis, ensuring the empowerment and participation of the people and their own organizations in all levels of environmental management activities, raising public awareness with educational programmes to promote understanding of the essential linkages between environment and development as well as undertaking sectional and cross–sectional economic evaluations that create strategic alliances with the local, regional, national economy.
While it is recognized that environmental resources contribute significantly to sustainable economic development, the conceptual framework of Ethiopia’s comprehensive environmental policy is too general. It is not systematically formulated to meet the strategic management process stated above. In its strategic objectives, the Ethiopian Environmental Policy does not include strategies for rigorous implementation, monitoring, or evaluation. In addition, the implementation of its functions is hindered by the lack of institutional frameworks. The capacity to initiate and sustain change and mobilize adequate resources linking activities effectively among sectors is hardly visible.
Based on the goals of the Ethiopian Environmental Policy, it is worth mentioning that its vision statement should have highlighted what Ethiopia aspires to achieve in the future. Through the establishment of sound management of renewable and non-renewable resources, Ethiopia should have envisioned development that ensures a secure and sustainable environment. Similarly, the mission of the environmental policy should have been designed to raise the awareness and empowerment of the Ethiopian people to use environmentally sound technology and the best practices in order to achieve sustainable development. This would include using good management, conservation, and monitoring in order to protect the natural resources of the country.
Unlike the Environmental Protection Policy which lacks specific vision and mission statements, the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), begun by the Environmental Protection Authority includes Procedural Guidelines as a prerequisite for the approval of new development activities and projects in any sector. To be well-designed, the EIA has very specific vision and mission statements. Its vision is to “…see a clean and healthy environment by eliminating or, when possible minimizing pollutants at their sources. Its mission statement is to enforce the Pollution Control Proclamation and related laws, in order to eliminate or …minimize pollutants that generated from industries, agricultural activities, service rendering organizations and urban areas and enhance the health and wellbeing of the citizens”. To realize the mission statements, the EIA included the objectives and goals, among others, promoting development that is sustainable and optimize resource use and management opportunities and the productivity and capacity of natural systems and ecological processes which maintain their functions, ensuring environmental concerns are explicitly addressed and incorporated into the decision-making process, developing, implementing and measuring programmes that promote management systems for the environment, preventing or minimizing or offset the adverse impacts of municipal waste and other potential pollutants and preventing the adverse effects of developmental proposals that may generate hazardous substances or waste.
As practiced by other developing countries, the Environmental Impact Assessment generally includes: a) an assessment of strategic environmental policies and strategies (refers to a proactive approach for integrating environmental considerations with higher levels of decision-making in the development of policies and plans); b) regional, sectional development for an EIA (the concept of regional planning that integrates environmental concerns with plans for developing a specific geographic region); c) project-level EIA effects (refers to development activity and the impact that it exerts on the receiving environment). In other words, the EIA determines: 1) social impacts on health, demography, work, recreation, consumption, culture, and values; 2) economic impacts on markets, technologies, resource management, industrial structure, regional development, business practices, and trade; and 3) environmental impacts on ecosystems, habitats, resources, air, water, soil.
EIA in Ethiopia is voluntary and is not legally binding. It is only applicable to large projects, and ascertains environmental impacts of development activities and how to mitigate negative impacts early in the project planning cycle. The developers of these large projects are required to take an “Initial Environmental Examination (IEE)” in order to determine whether or not a given project requires full Environmental Impact Assessment. As narrated some researchers, however, the EPA was created to assist developers in addressing environmental issues related to the development of their projects and in meeting environmental impact assessment requirements. It is further alleged by the Ethiopian Government that the environmental impact assessment process included the participation of local populations in project planning and design. Thus, properly-conducted EIA lessens conflicts by promoting community participation and informing decision makers, thus helping to lay a suitable foundation for environmentally sound projects.
Assuming that the Ethiopian Government is on the right track, it does not appear to have worked out the enforcement capacity, or trained human resources, or established the technical and scientific base for setting standards to measure compliance.