Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
Comprehensive environmental studies must be carried out for any large-scale project, including an impact assessment called an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). It is necessary, seen from both the authorities’ and the investors’ side.
The assessment must ensure that knowledge about the specific impact a project may have is available and how to avoid or minimise the possible negative impacts. A well-executed EIA study is therefore a prerequisite to a project being approved.
In this context, the word “environment” is used very broadly and it not only covers natural, plant and animal conditions, but also social, health and social conditions.
It is the person or company that ‘owns’ a project (construction client), who is responsible for the studies being carried out and that the relevant conditions are illustrated. It is the authorities’ responsibility to verify that the studies are sufficient and that on this basis the project is sound.
There are international requirements on whether there should be an assessment of the impacts on the environment from specific projects. A set of common standards is used and there are also special standards developed for the evaluation of projects in the Arctic region.
Therefore, extensive studies are carried out that must ensure the necessary knowledge. It happens both on the basis of a number of international guidelines, but also in close interaction with both the authorities and the population. Thus, it is not a closed process, but a process in which the public is involved.
What are EIA studies?
The legal framework in Greenland for EIA studies is in the process of being translated into the form of a statutory instrument. The work in progress will build on the already recognised international standards and can be adapted accordingly, if the upcoming Greenlandic statutory instrument might result in a need for amendments or additions.
In connection with the project, the Government of Greenland has prepared a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), which works on a more comprehensive plan and has helped to identify issues that EIA studies should focus on.
An EIA study must thus:
- Identify and evaluate possible environmental impacts that the project can cause
- Show how the possible environmental impacts can be addressed and/or avoided
- Describe the extent and frequency of monitoring, restoration - how is the environment left at the end of the project
- Contribute to the project’s adaptation to the surrounding environment
- Present its assessments to the public and the authorities
A project cannot be initiated until this has been done and there is environmental approval. At the same time, in large-scale projects this is to be a prerequisite in order to receive funding. Lenders are also interested in that a project can demonstrate its impact on the environment. In this way it minimises the risk of unforeseen costs of environmental protection. From an investment perspective, it makes such a big difference that there is assurance that the project is sustainable – also environmentally.
Archaeological studies and inspections are an integral part of an EIA study to identify what culture-historical interests there are in the area concerned, and how the interests might be affected in connection with a project.
Cultural sites and the information they contain are protected through Parliament of Greenland Act No. 11 of 19 May 2010 about conservation and other cultural heritage protection of cultural sites. This act goes beyond the studies carried out under the auspices of the EIA study. Archaeology also falls under the auspices of the SEA.
All costs in connection with archaeological registrations and archaeological studies (excavations) in an area are borne by the construction client on the project.
All organisations, companies and individuals have the right to nominate an area or the like for conservation to the Greenland National Museum. Any complaints regarding conservation matters can be submitted to the Government of Greenland and the complaint will then be processed by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research and Church.