All new polices, plans and development projects in the North and East will be implemented only after a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), according to a directive issued by the government.
Newly appointed Chairman of the Central Environmental Authority Charitha Herath told the Business Times that the SEA is a widely-used tool worldwide to assess the possible environmental impacts of policies, plans and programs and it can be considered as a decision support tool aiming to mainstream environmental consideration in to public decisions. CEA has already carried out SEAs for Trincomalee and Hambantota Development plans.
In this process the first level of effort is to provide the data available with the agencies to the CEA and the Urban Development Authority to be compiled into one data base.
The compiled data will provide the draft “Opportunity Map” to understand the distribution of natural resources and help the development agencies to identify the areas that can be developed without restrictions and also the areas that are sensitive.
The Central Environmental Authority (CEA) and the Disaster Management Centre initiated action to carry out a Strategic Environmental Assessment for the Northern Province with UNDP assistance, he said. The SEA study will identify the sensitive environmental features of the Northern Province, with the emphasis on forest-lands, catchment areas, mangroves, marshes, coastal ecosystems, mineral stocks, archeological cultural monuments etc. In addition, the development of a Risk Reduction Plan will identify disaster prone areas which need mitigation measures prior to commencing the development activities.
It is expected that the SEA study will include recommendations for preservation and future management of these environment sensitive areas/unique features. Identification of environmental problems/issues in the area such as water scarcity, surface and ground-water pollution, solid waste and sewerage disposal, drainage problems floods, etc is a crucial point of the SEA. The study will provide solutions to mitigate these problems Mr. Herath said.
It will assess the suitability of development proposals and identify the suitable sites for proposed development projects.
It is expected to prepare a zoning plan identifying areas suitable for Agriculture, Tourism, Industries, Fisheries and Settlement etc.
Further the study will identify new infrastructure needs which have not yet been identified along with the resource requirements of new projects, he added.