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State environmental expert review

The implementation of Belarus’ state policy to ensure environmental safety is carried out, among other things, through the mechanism of state environmental expert review, which includes stage-to-stage environment control (at the stage of selecting the construction site, issuing the state environmental impact assessment findings and the document on the compliance of the facility with environmental regulations, and also at the stage of post-project analysis), and lies within the purview of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection.

One of the main tasks of the ministry is to implement a unified state policy on environmental protection and rational use of natural resources. State environmental expert review is a mandatory element in the process of planning, designing and making decisions on the social and economic development of the country, the implementation of economic and other activities on the territory of Belarus.

The implementation of the goal relies on the principles of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development adopted by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro on 3–14 June 1992. In particular, under its Principle 17, environmental impact assessment, as a national instrument, shall be undertaken for proposed activities that are likely to have a significant adverse impact on the environment and are subject to a decision of a competent national authority.

Founded in 1993, the Belarusian Institute of State Environmental Expert Review comes exclusively under the competence of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of the Republic of Belarus. At the same time, the system of state environmental expert review started developing in the late 1970s as a mechanism for the effective protection of water resources and air.

Over the period of its activity the Institute of State Environmental Expert Review has helped to implement the norms of international legislation into the national laws on state environmental expert review, which significantly improved the image of the country on the international arena.

The Environmental Impact Assessment Institute has been successfully operating for more than ten years within Belarus’ international commitments undertaken upon the ratification of the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context, signed in Espoo, Finland on 9 February 1991, the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, adopted in Aarhus, Denmark on 25 June 1998, and other international treaties.

Over the past decade, practical experience has been gained in applying the EIA procedure in a transboundary context, including both by the party of origin and the affected party. The transboundary element of the EIA procedure was strengthened in 2010.

Progress made in the state environmental expert review was praised as part of the environmental performance review carried out by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe in 2015.

As part of the proposals to improve legislation in state environmental expert review, the Republic of Belarus has been invited to ratify the Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment to the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context.

The new Law of the Republic of Belarus “On State Environmental Expert Review, Strategic Environmental Assessment and Environmental Impact Assessment” introduced an institute of strategic environmental assessment as the next step to improve legislation in order to make well-balanced decisions on the economic development of the country, taking into account the importance of biodiversity conservation and rational use of natural resources.
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