Ensuring Safety and Environmental Sustainability of Settlements
The Decree of the President of Ukraine of 30 September 2019 No 722/2019 supported the Resolution of the United Nations General Assembly of 25 September 2015, No 70/1 Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the results of its adaptation in line with the specifics of Ukraine as provided in the National Report “Sustainable Development Goals: Ukraine”, in order to ensure compliance with the Ukraine’s Sustainable Development Goals through 2030.
One of the goals of sustainable development is to ensure openness, security, viability, and the environmental sustainability of cities and other settlements.
It is impossible to achieve this goal without quality decision-making procedures for projects that may endanger environment and human health.
In Ukraine, such a procedure is an environmental impact assessment, which is regulated by the Law of Ukraine On Environmental Impact Assessment.
The environmental impact assessment is aimed at preventing environmental damage, ensuring environmental safety, environmental protection, rational use and reproduction of natural resources in the decision-making process of economic activities that may have a significant impact on the environment, taking into consideration national, public and private interests.
The environmental impact assessment of intended projects and facilities that may have a significant impact on the environment is a key element in ensuring openness, safety, viability and the environmental sustainability of settlements, as it provides for the following:
— publication of notifications about the intended projects that are subject to the environmental impact assessment;
— producing reports on the environmental impact assessment that should include: a description of the intended projects; a description of justified alternatives to the intended projects, the main reasons to choose the proposed option, taking into account any environmental consequences; a description of the current state of the environment (a baseline scenario), and a description of the latter’s likely changes without the intended project; a description of environmental factors that are likely to be affected by the intended project and its alternatives, including public health, fauna, flora, biodiversity, land (including seizure of land), soil, water, air, climatic factors (including climate change and greenhouse gas emissions), tangible objects, including architectural, archaeological and cultural heritage, landscape, socio-economic conditions and relations between the mentioned factors; a description and assessment of the possible environmental impact of the intended project, including the magnitude and scale of such impact (area and population that may be affected), its nature (possibly cross-boundary), intensity and complexity, probability, expected beginning, duration, frequency and impact inevitability (including direct and any indirect, collateral, cumulative, cross-boundary, short-term, medium-term and long-term, permanent and temporary, positive and negative impact); a description of forecasting methods; a description of the envisaged measures to prevent, divert, avoid, reduce, or eliminate a significant negative impact on the environment, including offsetting measures (if possible); a description of an expected significant negative environmental impact due to the project’s vulnerability because of emergency risks, measures to prevent or mitigate emergencies’ impact on the environment and emergency response measures; a summary of monitoring and control programs regarding the environmental impact during the intended project, as well as post-project monitoring plans (if necessary), etc.;
— public discussion of the intended project in order to identify, collect, and incorporate comments and suggestions of the general public regarding the intended project;
— issue of an opinion regarding the environmental impact assessment that determines admissibility or justifies inadmissibility of the intended project; establishes conditions for the use of the area and natural resources during preparatory and construction works and the intended project itself; establishes conditions for environmental protection and safety during preparatory and construction works and the intended project; establishes conditions for preventing and mitigating emergencies, etc.
The Law of Ukraine On Environmental Impact Assessment stipulates that the environmental impact assessment opinion is binding. Environmental terms of the intended project specified in the opinion are mandatory. The environmental impact assessment is taken into account when deciding on the intended project and it may constitute a ground to deny a positive decision on the intended project.
When making decisions on intended project, public authorities and local governments are obliged to take into account the environmental impact assessment opinions. A decision on implementation of the intended project contains environmental terms of the intended project as specified in the relevant environmental impact assessment. A public authority or local government may decide to include the environmental terms of the intended project into their decision.
Thus, the Law of Ukraine On Environmental Impact Assessment establishes a legal requirement for public authorities and local governments to take into account the environmental impact assessment opinions when deciding on intended projects.
Therefore, it can be concluded that in the course of decentralization reform the environmental impact assessment procedure plays a key role in achieving goals of sustainable development in terms of ensuring openness, security, viability and environmental sustainability of cities and other settlements.
Dmytro Mormul is a head of Association of Environmental Impact Assessment Companies