Updated to: 28 January 2019Download as PDF
Ms. Samar Malek
Head of the Service of Environmental Technology
The Ministry of Environment (MoE)
Phone: 961 1 976555 ext.: 434
History of ESIA
In Lebanon, ESIA is more widely known as EIA. The ESIA system was initiated in Lebanon in 1999 by a World Bank funded project, implemented through the MoE. This project set the foundations of the ESIA framework which is known and operational today.
The first legislation that obligated the submission of an environmental assessment before the start of a project, was the Environmental Protection Law 444/2002. This law does however not provide details on the conduct of ESIAs. Procedureal requirements and the process for ESIA is outlined in Decree 8633, issued in 2012. In addition, several ministerial decisions and circulars give details on review procedures, deadlines, and other specifications of the ESIA framework, including:
a) Circular No. 9/1 of 2014 requiring details and maps related to the land acquisition
b) Decision No. 588/1 of 2015 related to the use of the CDR list of environment studies to prepare the ESIA, IEE, SEA and audit reports
c) Decision No. 260/1 of 2015 related to the procedures for reviewing the IEE
d) Decision No. 261/1 of 2015 related to the procedures for reviewing the scoping and EIA reports
e) Circular No. 10/1 of 2016 reminding the proponent that he is responsible to implement the EMP and mitigate any issues that was not included in the EIA/IEE report, otherwise the proponent will be subject to the penalties set forth in the EPL law 444 of 2002.
f) Law No. 251 of 2014 for establishing the environmental prosecution.
g) Decree No. 3989 of 2016 related to the establishment of the environment police.
h) Decision No. 589/1 of 2015 related to the procedures for reviewing SEA reports.
National detailed regulation for ESIA
Decree 8633/2012: Fundamentals of EIA
1- The MoE/UNDP (2014) Strategic Environmental Assessment of Lebanon’s Renewable Energy Sector lists some recommendations to be included in specific ESIA reports for wind farms, solar PV farms, and hydro power plants – adopted by MoE in practice but not as a legal text.
2- Guidelines for waste incineration and co-incinerations EIA studies – Under review at MoE.
3- Guidelines for offshore oil and gas EIA studies – Under review at MoE.
Sector specific procedures or regulations on EIA
Article 4 of Decree 8633/2012 indicates that for industrial projects, requiring permitting from the Ministry of industry, the applicable rules for the permitting are observed alongside the rules for ESIA studies. The details of the permitting procedure are specified in the MoE decision 590/1 issued on 21/12/2015. Decision No. 590/1 dated 21/12/2015 details the environmental evaluation of industrial establishments as part of the permitting process.
Exemptions from ESIA application
National defence related activities are exempt from conducting ESIAs. The Minister of the environment, as head of the competent authority, does not have the authority to make exemptions of ESIA obligation. But, he or she has the authority to shorten or lengthen the days of review procedure.
Scope of ESIA application
Section IV, article 21 of law 444/2002 states that:
“The concerned authorities in both public and private sectors should prepare the initial environmental studies (IEE studies) or environmental impact assessment (EIA) for projects that could threaten the environment, because of its size or nature or effect or activities.”
Central ESIA authority
The MoE is the competent authority to receive, review, and approve EIA studies. Furthermore, MoE is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the ESIA during project construction and operation.
Other key (governmental) parties involved in ESIA, and their roles
The preparation of ESIA reports, and all other environmental studies, is restricted to a list of private consultancies which are qualified by the Council for Development and Reconstruction (CDR). This list is updated when needed. CDR, established in 1977, is an autonomous institution endowed with extended jurisdiction and is directly accountable to the Council of Ministers through the Prime Minister.
(De)centralisation of ESIA mandates
All responsibilities for ESIAs is confined to the Ministry of Environment (MoE).
MoE Circular 6/1 of 2015 “Required fees for EIA and IEE, value of guarantee and its return” specifies the conditions and requirements of submitting the ESIA studies at the MoE. Among these conditions, the proponent should complete a payment of 500,000 Lebanese Pounds (at a bank after receiving the invoice from the MoE) before submitting the study. Alongside this amount, and only if the proponent of the project is a private entity, the proponent is required to deposit 0.05% of the total project value as a financial guarantee for the MoE. This amount could for instance be used to hire experts, in case needed or to assist in the review of an ESIA study.
Overview ESIA procedure
The ESIA procedure in Lebanon starts with screening of the project by the MoE, concluding that a project either requires an ESIA, an Initial Environmental Examination (IEE) or no studies at all. After reviewing an Initial Environmental Examination, the MoE can still demand for a full ESIA if significant impacts are expected.
When a project requires an ESIA, the proponent first collects stakeholder inputs and submits a scoping report. A technical committee reviews the scoping report, upon which conditional or unconditional approval is given to start the study. The proponent then conducts the study and submits the ESIA report, including an Environmental Management Plan (EMP), to the MoE. As with the scoping, also the ESIA report is reviewed by a the technical committee, who then recommends the Minister on a decision. Based on this recommendation, the MoE can ask for additional information, or issue a conditional or an unconditional approval.
When the ESIA is approved, the proponent is legally bound (by signing a pledge) to adhere to the mitigation measures specified in the environmental management plan (EMP) of the ESIA. Follow up and monitoring are done by the MoE, the project owner (through periodical reports), and other relevant authorities through site visits and periodic monitoring reports.
The screening process starts with the proponent submitting a Project Screening Form to the MoE. Based on the severity of the impacts, the Service of Environmental Technology determines if the project requires a full ESIA (projects listed in Annex I of the Decree 8633/2012), an Initial Environment Examination (projects listed in Annex II of Decree 8633/2012) or no environmental studies at all (project listed in Annex III of Decree 8633/2012).
A technical committee established within the MoE reviews an IEE, based on Annex 5 of Decision 260/1/2015. Based on this review, the proponent may be required to conduct an ESIA study, in case significant impacts on the environment are expected or impacts on sensitive areas and ecosystems. Otherwise, the project is given conditional or unconditional approval. The proponent is informed about the screening decision through an official letter from the Minister. The screening results are not published.
Contents of the starting document
The contents of the Project Screening Form are outlined in Annex 4 of Decree 8633/2012. The required information includes a.o the personal details of the project owner, the type of project, its objectives and costs, timelines for design, construction and operation and maps showing the project's location. The MoE reserves the right to ask for further documents if needed for the screening process.
After receiving the Project Screening Form, the MoE must issue a decision within 15 calendar days. If it fails to do so, the project owner can proceed with the environmental studies in line with Decree 8633/2012.
IEEs require no scoping. In cases where an ESIA is required, the proponent must do scoping and submit a scoping report.
The scoping starts by the proponent informing stakeholders listed in Annex 5 of Decree 8633/2012 about the upcoming ESIA. The concerned municipality is responsible to announce that the public can submit written comments, while the proponent organizes public hearing sessions. The comments collected from stakeholders and the public must be taken into account during the assessment phase and must be presented in the ESIA report.
When the scoping report is submitted to the MoE, the Service of Environmental Technology forms a committee of 3-4 persons with different expertise from inside the ministry. The creation of this committee is formalized by a ministerial decision. This committee reviews and formulates a recommendation to the Minister of either approval, conditional approval, the need for an addendum or the restart of the scoping process. The Minister takes a final decision and communicates this to the proponent. The scoping report is publicly available at the MoE for examination.
Contents of the scoping document
The information expected in the scoping is specified in Annex 7 of Decree 8633/2012. This includes information on:
- History, objectives and importance of the project, potential alternatives and other existing initiatives in the project area
- Description of the project, the study area and its surrounding environment
- ESIA objectives and scope
- Regulations and guidelines relevant to the project
- Policy, legal and administrative frameworks
- Coordination among official departments and public participation
- Potential environmental impacts
- Analysis of project alternatives
- Environmental management plan
- Mitigation of negative impacts
- Monitoring plan
- Institutional capacity development plan
When the scoping is being prepared, the concerned municipality must publish during 15 days that there is a possibility for the public to submit written comments, within one month from the date of publishing.
Once the scoping report is registered, the technical committee must submit its recommendation to the Minister within 10 days and the MoE must issue a decision within 15 days. If it fails to do so, the project owner can proceed with preparing the ESIA, in line with the EIA decree.
When doing an ESIA study, the proponent must take into account the scoping report, Annex 8 of the EIA decree (outlining required contents of an ESIA report) and stakeholder comments. For the conduct of the ESIA, the proponent must use the services of consultancies registered at the Council for Development and Reconstruction (CDR).
Contents of the EIA report
Annex 8 of the EIA decree determines the contents of the ESIA report summarized here below:
1. Executive summary.
2. Table of contents
3. Introduction: Objective and need for the project
4. Policy, legal and administrative frameworks
5. Public participation
6. Description of the project
7. Description of the surrounding environment
7.1 Physical and chemical environment
7.2 Biological environment
7.3 Socio-economic environment
8. Potential environmental impacts
8.1 Physical and chemical environments
8.2 Biological environment
8.3 Social and economic environment
9. Primary analysis of alternatives
10. Environmental management plan
10.1 Impacts program
10.2 Monitoring and control program
10.3 Institutional capacity development program
12. Annexes (minutes public hearings and related reports, references, names of report writers)
Summary of project documents
13. Tables and information statements
14. List of relevant reports
15. List of scientific and non -scientific references used
16. List of the names of who prepared the ESIA report (individuals and institutions)
Accreditation of consultants
The ministerial decision 588/1 of 2015 determines that SEA, scoping, ESIA and IEE reports should be prepared by a consultancy qualified and registered at the Council for Development and Reconstruction (CDR) as environmental consultancies. These national consultancies can conduct environmental studies in collaboration with an international consultancy.
The Service of the Environmental Technology starts with an initial review of the ESIA report by assessing its conformity with the EIA decree 8633/2012. If positive, the technical committee established during the scoping phase also assesses and scores the ESIA report based on the methodology described in Annex 9 of Decision 261/1/2015. If needed, this committee can demand assistance from external experts.
When reviewing the ESIA, special attention is paid to whether the stakeholder comments have been taken into consideration. Based on the review, the ESIA is approved, conditionally approved or the proponent is asked for an addendum, which implies a restart of the ESIA process. After the review, the technical committee informs the Minister about its recommendation. The Minister then informs the proponent about the final decision through an official letter. The public has the right to access the ESIA report and the MoE's position, except for intellectual or industrial property rights mentioned in the study.
The period to review an ESIA report is 2 calendar months and starts on the day the report is registered at the MoE. Once the Minister decides on the ESIA or IEE, the decision is published within 5 days, respectively 2 days. The Minister’s decision is published by the municipality on its bulletin board within 15 days of its receipt.
Integration of ESIA into decision-making
Based on the environmental studies, the MoE gives a non-binding advice. It is up to the relevant line ministries to decide how they take into account MoE's recommendations.
Compliance to the environmental management plan specified with the ESIA is monitored through site inspections by the MoE and through periodic reports submitted to the MoE, as agreed with the proponent. Site inspections are done according to a schedule and additionally when the MoE receives a complaint about a specific project.
The Environmental Protection (Law 444/ 2002, Article 58) states that proponents shall be punished by a fine or imprisonment in case a project starts without conducting the required ESIA or IEE, or when a project is not in line with the approved ESIA/IEE. In case of non-compliance, the proponent will be given a time frame to comply with the requirements or agreed conditions. If non-compliance persists, the MoE asks the relevant ministries to close down the project or to revoke the permit given to the project. The MoE also has the right to sue the project owner at environmental law courts and to enforce the polluter pays principal as stipulated in law 444.
Public participation requirements for ESIA process stages
In the scoping phase, the proponent is obliged to inform stakeholders, organize public hearings and collect written comments from the public. The public hearing dates are announced by the concerned municipality. The MoE can also demand that a public participation session is organised before the ESIA report is submitted. During this public hearing, the proponent needs to introduce the project and present the potential impacts and mitigation measures. MoE and all other relevant public entities should be informed about and be present at this public hearing. In the ESIA report, the proponent is expected to include all comments from the public and its responses.
Timeline for public comments
The public has the option to submit written comments in the scoping phase about the project within one month of the advertisement.
Access to information
Access to information, including on environmental reports, is governed by law 28/2017. This enables the public to get access to environmental assessment reports after sending a request to MoE. However this right will not include any information related to national security, intellectual property or the financial details of the project.
Possibilities for appeal
Ministerial decision 262/1 of 12/6/2015 builds on decree 8633/2012 and outlines appeal conditions and review mechanisms. Appeals must be made within 15 days of MoE decision about the ESIA/IEE report in question. Appeals to the MoE can be made for reasons such as:
- The decision to demand an ESIA study, to reject or to demand an addendum to the scoping or the ESIA report
- The decision not to demand an ESIA
- The decision to (the conditionally) approve a scoping or an ESIA report
After studying the appeal, the department of Integrated Environmental Systems in the service of Environmental Technology at MoE, issues a decision within 10 days of receiving the appeal to:
1- Accept the appeal’s form and content
2- Accept the appeal’s form and part of the content
3- Reject the appeal’s form and content (and communicate the decision to the Council of Ministers in case of a public project)
4 - Request for additional information
Central ESIA database
Soft and hard copies of scoping, IEE, ESIA and EA reports submitted to MoE are kept in the archive of the department of Integrated Environmental Systems in the service of Environmental Technology.
1- Environmental Safeguards for Planned and Existing Activities (UNDP, MoE 2017): http://www.lb.undp.org/content/dam/lebanon/docs/Energy%20and%20Environment/Publications/20171218%20Environmental%20safeguards%20EN.pdf