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Obtaining Environmental Approval for Projects

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EIA is a simple process of predicting the potential impacts of development activities on the natural and social environment. EIA also suggests measures to prevent or minimize negative impacts and to enhance positive impacts. EIA ensures sustainable investment for developers and a livable environment for the people. In 1981 EIA was made a legal requirement for projects within the coastal zone and since 1993 is mandatory throughout Sri Lanka for prescribed development projects.

Prescribed projects are listed in the Government Gazette No. 772/22 of 24th June 1993 and No. 859/14 of 23rd February 1995.

The easiest way to determine whether your project proposal requires undergoing EIA process is the submission of completed Basic Information Questionnaire to Central Environmental Authority. Then CEA will determine whether your project proposal will be required to go through EIA process.

If the project is located in the North Western Province, you should contact the North-Western Provincial Environmental Authority.

If the project is located within the coastal zone then you should contact the Director, Coast Conservation Department. The coastal zone comprises 300 meters land-wards from the high waterline and 2 km seawards from the low waterline. In the case of estuaries and other water bodies 2 km distance from the water area when you draw a line perpendicular to the mouth of the water body.

If the project is located within one mile from the boundary of a National Reserve you should contact the Dept. of Wild Life Conservation.

How to Begin or Initiate the EIA Process?

First find out whether the project proposal falls within the “prescribed project” list.
Thereafter the Project Proponent needs to submit some Preliminary Information about the proposed project to the CEA. The CEA may provide the Project Proponent with a simple form to submit Preliminary Information about the project.
Based on Preliminary Information the CEA will designate “Project Approving Agency” for the project. The Project Approving Agency will prepare Terms of Reference (ToR) for the EIA report by conducting one or more “Scoping” meetings. If the project is very large in extent and magnitude, the Project Approving Agency may ask for more details about the project.
The Project Approving Agency is the government agency responsible for administering the EIA process. The Ceylon Tourist Board, the Ministry of Agriculture, Coast Conservation Department, and Central Environmental Authority (CEA) are examples.

When should I Provide the Preliminary Information?

As soon as the project concept is developed and the location of the project is decided. If the Project Proponent is carrying out pre-feasibility, then that is the right time to do it. You should not wait until the full feasibility stages to submit the preliminary information.

What is the Difference between an IEE and an EIA?

If the environmental impacts of the projects are not very significant then the Project Proponent may be asked to do an Initial Environmental Examination, which is a relatively short and simple study. However, if the potential impacts appear to be more significant the Project Proponent may be asked to do an Environmental Impact Assessment, which is a more detailed and comprehensive study of environmental impacts.

Processing Time

The time allowed for the Project Approving Agencies to process the EIA from the day the Project Proponent submitted the Preliminary Information is only 116 working days, provided that the information submitted is sufficient for the Project Approving Agency to review. The time allowed for the Project Approving Agency to process an IEE is less. However, there is no time limit to prepare the IEE/EIA report. Experience shows that the time taken to prepare an EIA report ranges from 3 months to one year, depending on the nature of the project.

Who is Responsible for the Preparation of the EIA Report?

Consultants hired by the Project Proponent. A list of consultants and consulting firms is available at the Central Environmental Authority. You may also advertise for bids from consulting firms for the EIA study. The Project Proponent is responsible for submitting their EIA report to the Project Approving Agency.

What does the EIA Report look like?

It is a relatively short and concise document (may be about 100 pages) written in easy to understand language that describes the following.

  • the details of the proposed project including all components
  • the existing environment of the proposed project site
  • the positive and negative impacts of the project
  • proposed mitigation measures
  • reasonable alternatives
  • monitoring programme

Past EIA reports are available at the CEA library for reference

To whom should the Project Proponent Submit the EIA Report?

To the Project Approving Agency assigned to the project. The Project Proponent needs to submit required numbers of copies of the EIA report. The EIA report needs to be translated into Sinhala and Tamil also.

Who gives the Decision in the EIA Process (Environmental Clearances)?

The Project Approving Agency. The Project Approving Agency appoints a Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC) which independently evaluates the EIA report and submits their observations. The Project Approving Agency uses the observations in giving their decision.

In addition, the concurrence of the Central Environmental Authority is also required for the Project Approving Agency’s decision to be effective.

How Long is the Approval Valid for?

Generally the approval is valid for 3 years. If the Project Proponent does not commence work within 3 years of the decision, renewal of the approval from the Project Approving Agencies is necessary. The validity period is usually stated in the letter of approval.

If the Project Proponent doesn’t Agree with the Decision?

You have a right to appeal to the Secretary to the Ministry of Environment. His/her decision is final.

Do the Project Proponents Require Other Permits even after getting EIA Clearance?

Yes. You will also have to get approval for the project from the relevant government institution at the local level having jurisdiction over the proposed site. There may be other permit requirements as well. Remember EIA approval gives only the environmental clearance. It is important that the Project Proponent obtains other permits such as land clearance from the relevant authorities before entering the EIA process.

What Activities can the Project Proponent Carry out before Receiving the Approval?

Only those that will not lead to any changes at the site. The Project Proponent can explain the project to the people and others having an interest in the project and its outcome. In fact, Project Proponents are encouraged to employ professional public relations consultants for this purpose. You can also carry out such activities as surveying the land and field testing etc.

From where can the Project Proponent Get more Details on the EIA Process?

The Environmental Management & Assessment Division
Central Environmental Authority
No. 104, Denzil Kobbekaduwa Mawatha,
Te l :+94-11-2872419, +94-11-2876643
Fax :+94-11-2872296

Mrs.Kanthi de Silva
Director EIA
Tel: +94-11-2872419

The CEA library has copies of past EIA reports for reference.

Organization Information

Central Environmental Authority

Denzil Kobbekaduwa Mawatha,

Telephones:011-7877277, 7877278, 7877279, 7877280
Fax Nos:011-2888999

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Last Updated On: 2009-11-10 10:54:54
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