May 22, 2020 – Despite travel restrictions in the Pacific due to COVID19, SPREP continued to deliver training to its Members to strengthen capacity on environmental management through tailored online training. The first virtual online training on Environment Impact Assessments (EIA) and Social Sustainability was delivered for the Environment and Conservation Division in Kiribati.
The online training was delivered on Thursday 21st May with the assistance of the EIA Unit of the Environment and Conservation Division (ECD) of the Government of Kiribati Ministry of Environment, Lands and Agricultural Development in collaboration with partners of the Pacific Learning Partnership on Environmental and Social Sustainability (PLP-ESS), the World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB).
It was the first SPREP led virtual training on EIA and Environmental and Social Sustainability (ESS) to a Member country during the COVID19 pandemic travel restrictions. As many of the Pacific islands continue to close their borders and enforce travel restrictions, delivery of face to face training has not been possible for the last four months. In response to these unprecedented circumstances, SPREP adjusted the way it delivers its services to its Members by adopting the use of virtual online platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Skype.
“This is the first time SPREP is delivering EIA training virtually and whilst there are some aspects of the training that cannot be delivered virtually such as practical field visits to proposed development sites, however, we are pleased with the level of enthusiasm and dedication by our Members for SPREP to deliver training remotely and virtually. It is also encouraging to see the continued commitment in enhancing and strengthening EIA capacity in country,” says Ms. Easter Chu Shing-Galuvao, Director of the Environmental Monitoring and Governance Programme.
The EIA/ESS training is timely as Kiribati is implementing various development activities including major infrastructural projects which prompted the need for upgrading EIA and ESS capacity of ECD staff as well as testing the efficacy of current EIA processes and systems to identify key areas for improvement. The training programme included discussions on the implementation of the EIA provisions of the Kiribati Environment (amendment) Act 2007 and Environmental General Regulation 2017.
The first of the four-part training series focused on the ‘screening’ component of the EIA process. An important aspect of the session was examining past Kiribati infrastructure projects to highlight the importance of ‘screening’ as an integral part of the EIA process and how it can be applied to improve and strengthen understanding of development applications and guide better decisions.
The ECD Senior Environment Officer, Mr. Puta Tofinga acknowledged the PLP-ESS partnership and found the training very informative in strengthening the EIA ‘screening’ process.
"The EIA Screening toolkit is very useful, and I will adopt this screening toolkit at ECD and will start trialling it on development applications we will be dealing with. Thanks to SPREP and the PLP partners for their support and sharing in session one of our training,” said Mr Tofinga.
The Guidelines contains simple, step-by-step instructions on how the EIA process is implemented. A key element of the SPREP Regional EIA Guidelines include Toolkits and templates on the various steps of the EIA process. The training utilised the screening Toolkit to highlight recognised good practice in an exercise for reviewing development application example provided by ECD. The training also included a discussion on improvements to the Kiribati Environmental License Application forms, screening review checklists as well as a process for the upcoming review of Kiribati Environment Act 2007. The training also drew on examples of recent legislative revisions in neighbouring Pacific countries that could provide useful reference to Kiribati.
Mr. Tofinga further commented on the development approval process in Kiribati and how the Environment (amendment) Act 2007 and EIA Regulations 2017 are interlinked with other relevant legislation.
The series of EIA/ESS training for Kiribati ECD is scheduled to continue for the next two to three weeks with one training planned per week.
PLP-ESS is an agreed collaboration mechanism established in 2019 between SPREP, WB, ADB and USP to respond to the Pacific island countries capacity building needs related to environmental and social safeguard. This includes delivery of training, facilitation of the exchange of experiences and knowledge, mentoring trainees, developing curricula, and providing assistance related to the common objectives of ESS using the SPREP Regional EIA Guidelines as a key reference document.