Title: Strategic Environmental Assessment as a tool for Trans-boundary River Basin Management: a case study of the Chenab River Basin

Author: Farasat Ali

Supervising Institution: IHE Delft  - Institute for Water Education

Year: 2015



This study addresses the role of Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) in trans-boundary river basin management. The study investigates the role of the SEA in the Mekong and Mara river basins planning and its compatibility for the Chenab River Basin (CRB) shared between India and Pakistan. The study first investigates two international SEA case studies (Mekong and Mara River Basins) based on literature review and selected interviews and tries to identify the success conditions for these SEA studies. These success conditions for the SEA studies of the Mekong and Mara are then compared with the CRB situation. The source of data for the Chenab River Basin (CRB) situation was based on structured and semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders in Pakistan and the review of literature. The study also documents the SEA status and practices of its application and challenges in Pakistan and India based upon a review of the literature, as well as structured and semi structured interviews with selected experts and consultants of the various backgrounds of Pakistan and international. The study shows that the major success conditions for the SEA study of the Mekong River Basin (MRB) included: (1) Mekong River Agreement of 1995, (2) the role of the Mekong River Commission in the SEA study, (3) availability of financial resources for the SEA study, (4) political support for the SEA study of lower Mekong countries, (5) obligation of prior consultation and notification of development plans, (6) the initiative of sustainable hydropower (ISH) programme, (6) stakeholder involvement during the SEA study, and (7) public awareness via the website throughout the SEA study. Similarly, the key success conditions for the SEA study of the Mara River Basin (MRB) included: (1) the East African Community (EAC) agreement of 1999, (2) the Protocol on Environmental and Natural Resource Management of 2006, (3) the role of the Lake Victoria Basin Commission in the SEA study, (4) donor financial support for the SEA study, (5) available academic literature about present and past socio-ecological conditions, (6) local, regional, national and international institutional support during SEA study, and (7) political support of the governments of Kenya and Tanzania for the SEA study. This study further shows that Pakistan transposed SEA in their national and provincial Environmental Protection Acts except for Punjab province. Pakistan conducted a few SEA studies including SEA studies of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Hydropower Plans. The main challenges for SEA in Pakistan include: devolution environment from federal to provinces, less technical staff for SEA studies, weak knowledge, and training about SEA in the Environmental Protection Agencies, weak political priority for environmental, weak environmental screening and scoping process, lack of financial resources for primary data collection and SEA studies. India not transposed the SEA in their Environmental Protection Act of 1986, but the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) system and organization mechanism of India offers several elements for the SEA studies. There are some SEA studies conducted in India including SEA studies of the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi River Basins Hydropower Plans. The major challenges documented for the SEA in India include: lack of legislation for the SEA, weak political commitment for the SEA, pressure from investors to ignore environment, lack of reliable data and uneven staff in Pollution Control Boards (PCBs) for the SEA studies, lack of the SEA methodology, poor governance, and lack of coordination among stakeholders during SEA studies. The study documented possible success conditions for the SEA study of the Chenab River Basin (CRB) included: (1) the Indus Water Treaty of 1960, (2) the role of the Indus Water Commission, (3) the national SEA experience of the India and Pakistan, (4) the role of the World Bank and support of Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs), (5) regional academic research on geohydromorphology and biodiversity of the CRB would be success conditions for the SEA of the Chenab River Basin (CRB). It is also concluded that although the SEA as assessment tool provided interesting contributions for the Mekong and Mara river management, the level of success was limited because the recommendations were not accepted or partially implemented. Despite the fact that the SEA is implemented in rudimentary stages in both India and Pakistan, both countries conducted several SEA studies for donor-funded policies, plans, and programmes. Although, the Chenab River Basin (CRB) complies most of success factors and conditions of successful SEA study, those which were recorded in the Mekong and Mara case studies except the level of cooperation between India and Pakistan is limited and Indus Water Treaty of 1960 is missing environment and joint management approach.