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Public participation in environmental impact assessment

Public Participation in Environmental Impact Assessment

21st of April, 2005

Varna, Bulgaria


  • the questionnaire “Public Participation and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in a transboundary context - Romania and Bulgaria” was designed by the project team to assess the level of knowledge and awareness of NGOs and local authorities regarding the current implementation of the Espoo Convention in Romania and Bulgaria

  • the same questionnaire was designed for, and used in both countries

  • it was implemented in Romania during 2004, and spring of 2005

  • information envisaged by the questionnaire:

    - practical fields of application of EIA procedure;

    - the way in which EIA is implemented in a transboundary context;

    - the way in which public participation is actually used;

    - public participation - EIA of local projects, and policy proposals


  • the questionnaire was filled in by 33 respondents, out of 330

  • almost two thirds are NGO representatives

  • the rest are mainly representatives of local public authorities or environmental ones

Type of community
type of community

  • The answers came mostly from inhabitants of urban communities. Three quarters are from cities with more than 100.000 inhabitants

  • The location/county distribution is the following Bucharest (8); Braşov; Buziaş/Timiş; Constanţa/Constanţa; Craiova; Drobeta Turnu Severin/Mehedinţi (3); Galaţi; Giurgiu/Giurgiu; Piteşti/Argeş; Râmnicu Vâlcea/Vâlcea; Sibiu/Sibiu; Sighişoara/Mureş; Teleorman; No answer (11)

Age gender
age & gender

  • More than half of the respondents are in the 25-45 years category (see Age).

    • The gender is relatively equally distributed, with a small superiority of women over men (see Gender).

Eia what is it
EIA - what is it

  • Almost 90 percent of the respondents know what is the meaning of the wording “Environmental Impact Assessment” (see Question 1. Do you know what Environmental Impact Assessment is?)

Major goals of eia procedure
major goals of EIA procedure

  • the respondents believe that the main goal of the EIA procedure is “environmental protection, including biodiversity”

  • “integrating principles of sustainable development”, “public participation” “including environmental concerns into project activities” are also well represented in the amount of answers

Espoo convention
Espoo Convention

  • over three quarters of the respondents believe they know what is representing the Espoo Convention (see Question 3. Do you know what UNECE Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a transboundary context is?

Public participation
public participation

  • PP was introduced by Question 6. Is public participation essential during an EIA procedure?

  • at the question if public participation is really necessary during EIA, the main answer was that “it is required by law”

  • other answers are also well represented

Who can legally participate
who can legally participate?

  • almost 90 percent of the respondents agreed that both the public of the Affected Party and the one of the Party of Origin have the right to participate to an EIA in a transboundary context

Who is in fact participating
who is in fact participating

  • most of the respondents have never taken part to an EIA

  • those who have taken part to such a procedure were representing in most cases an organization - either NGO or local authority

  • only one third of the EIA procedures previously mentioned by the respondents were organized in a transboundary context

Groups which are participating
groups which are participating

  • at the question “which groups can participate to an EIA in a transboundary context”, the first on the list are the representatives of the Competent Authorities, both from the Party of Origin and the Affected Party (see Question 11. Which representatives of the following groups can participate at an EIA in a transboundary context?).

  • notes: at “others”, there was a mention of the “owner of the project/investor”; there are also some “I don’t know” answers.

Public hearings
public hearings

  • almost half of the respondents say bluntly “I don’t know” when asked about the proportion of EIA unattended public hearings (see Question 12. What is the relative share of the EIA public hearings, which are not attended by any public?). The rest is split among all the possible categories of answers.

Return to sender
return to sender

  • the major reason why the EIA reports are returned to their authors is “omissions and incompleteness in the submitted information”, but others are also mentioned (see Question 13. Which reason would you name as the most frequent one for returning EIA reports back to the authors for amending?).

  • as an extra reason, “not knowing the legislation” has been added.

Case studies
case studies

  • two thirds of the respondents said they are aware about EIA procedures in a transboundary context, and they named the following projects:

  • NPP Belene Bulgaria (8),Roşia Montană (4), the Bulgarian nuclear industry (2), NPP Cernavodă U2 (2), Bystroe (2), the general urban plan of Sviniţa Mehedinţi (2), Kozlodui, the bridge over the Danube at Calafat-Vidin, DEF, Giurgiu-Ruse, Save Vama Veche, Călăraşi float glass factory, Baia Mare.

Capacity building
capacity building

  • main answer is “participation in training sessions on tools of public participation in the EIA procedure”

  • the majority of the answers are grouped in the training category

  • an additional type of training mentioned is “access to information”

Main information sources
main information sources

  • the main source of information is the Internet, followed by workshops and seminars, and by written media

  • at “others”, the following comments were made: “EPA; SGA”, “the Official Monitor; documents emitted by other public institutions”

  • which is the most affordable source of information? - Internet, written press, radio, TV, workshops, seminars, are given preference

Comments on communication
comments on communication

  • “The process of consulting the stakeholders is mainly a communication process. Unfortunately, I know enough cases in which techniques are applied for communicating without a purpose - without a receptor for the message. The consultation is purely formal. Another aspect concerns the actual organization of the consultation actions – professionalism is needed, which is lacking in many cases when we speak about public authorities.”

  • “It is an interesting domain, but at level of the general public, the information is limited. Before meeting your organization, I had no idea about this subject.”

  • Final conclusions
    final conclusions

    • A first observation is that the number of those interested in the subject seems rather small. Sent to 330 NGO and local authorities’ representatives, the questionnaire had a return rate of around 10 percent.

    • The interest for the subject seems also to be confined, at least for the moment, only to the persons living in big cities, and especially in Bucharest. The most active category is represented by persons between 25-45 years old.

    • The majority of the respondents know what an Environmental Impact Assessment is. However, they do not know very well its goal.

    • The majority of the respondents know what the UNECE Convention on EIA in a transboundary context is, but they have different degrees of knowledge on this issue.

    • It must be mentioned that public participation to an Environmental Impact Assessment in a transboundary context is seen primarily as being “requested by law”, and only secondarily as a “way of improving the project and the process”.

    • The knowledge of the respondents related to the Environmental Impact Assessment procedure is mainly theoretical, because most of them have never participated to such an activity. The number of those who have participated to an Environmental Impact Assessment procedure in a transboundary context is even smaller.

    Final conclusions ii
    final conclusions (ii)

    • The respondents know about projects subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment in a transboundary context, the most frequent cases being those regarding the Bulgarian nuclear industry. There are also mentions of projects that are probably not subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment procedure in a transboundary context.

    • Main areas mentioned are: energy industry, mining industry and transport industry. There is no mention on activities from the agricultural, forestry, fishery a/o fields.

    • Regarding the ways to strengthen the capacity of the organizations to participate to Environmental Impact Assessment, most of the respondents first mention the participation in training sessions, followed by an increased staff.

    • The main source of information of the respondents is the Internet, followed by workshops and seminars, and by articles in the press.

    • The only two final general comments are symptomatic. The first observes with lucidity but also with sadness that public participation procedures seem more to be simulated by the authorities, than implemented with full responsibility. The second is even more dramatic, showing the fact that there is a public who completely lacks information on Environmental Impact Assessment in a transboundary context.