Environmental Risks and EIA training in Mongolia

A brief summary of the EIA training course for Mongolian EIA consultants that I held Ulan Bataar, Mongolia, in March this year: The EIA course was extremely well attended with 40-50 consultants putting in daily attendances at the 2 week course. We used a varied of examination techniques to evaluate the attendees, and awarded them with certificates on completion of the course.

The consultants were very grateful for the course as many had had no formal EIA training and they often experience difficulty gaining access to information. The participants had a huge range of abilities, from first year students with no previous training, to very senior consultants who had prepared the Mongolian EIA legislation and worked on most of the major EIAs in Mongolia.

There are clearly some substantial environmental issues to tackle in Mongolia. The students were given a practical insight into these issues on the site visit, they visited a Power Station with potentially high levels of uranium in the settlement beds, a sewage works that was receiving excessive qualities of chromium due to complex upstream administrative issues, and a tannery that would benefit from improved health and safety procedures.

The attendees were taught new approaches and techniques for environmental and social risk management. Mining is an important sector in Mongolia but many of the processes used are severely out of date, so we introduce the concept of Best Available Techniques. The EIAs that are currently prepared are limited in what they can achieve as they are essentially trying to mitigate and clear up bad technology, this should help to prevent the current situation and will provide consultants with another service offering.

On completion of the course the participants prepared a document to issue to the Government setting out how they would like the EIA process to be improved – this was the first time the EIA consultants had worked together and they said how much they had valued the opportunity to put forward suggestions for improvements to the EIA process in Mongolia. This was clearly a valuable exercise that provides an important starting point for future procedural improvements.

There is a need to improve the transparency of the EIA process in Mongolia. Currently, the Government selects who carries out the EIAs and the EIA documents are not released to the public. This approach does not allow the public to gain access to environmental information, or allow consultants to share good practice. A guest speaker on the course explained why Mongolia would benefit from signing the Aarhus Convention.

We were delighted by the enthusiasm and dedication of the attendees, all of whom worked extremely hard throughout the training course. We were also impressed by the insightful questions and the contributions that attendees made to the in-depth technical debates that were held on leading edge issues. The attendees also discussed projects they had worked on in Mongolia, which was extremely interesting and allowed us to ensure the training reflected the needs of the participants.

The project also helped to support the newly created Mongolian Association of Impact Assessors and will provide the continued mentoring of bank professionals. This project was funded by the World Bank Netherlands Trust Fund and was run in conjunction with Development Steppes NGO.

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