ANYTHING IN THE STORE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION AND LAND USE AND ADMINISTRATION AGENCY (EPLAUA) WITH REGARD TO ENHANCING ITS ORGANIZATIONAL SET UP & MAKING IT EFFECTIVE—IN THE DRAFT TIGRAI REGIONAL STATE GTP II?
To protect the environment in general and industrial pollution in particular all regional states in Ethiopia are obliged by law to establish environment protecting, regulating and monitoring bodies. Accordingly, all the regions have established environmental organs though they have established them under different names and statuses. Some of them are established as an authority, some of them as a bureau and some of them as agency. For instance, in Diredawa Administration and Harari People National State they are established as authorities. In Amhara Regional State, Benshangul Gumuz Regional State, Gambella People’s National State, and Oromiya Regional State they are established as bureaus. In Somalia National Regional State and Tigrai Regional State they are established as agencies.
The responsibilities of the regional environmental bodies are to: coordinate the formulation, implementation, review and revision of regional conservation strategies; monitor, protect and regulate the environment; ensure the implementation of federal environmental standards or as may be appropriate, issue and implement their own no less stringent standards; prepare reports on their respective state of the environment and sustainable development to the Federal Environmental Protection Authority (currently the Ministry of Environment & Forestry). Hence, on can easily see regional environmental bodies assume huge responsibilities in preventing environmental degradation, industrial pollution and enhancing sustainable development.
However, the issue is—does the fact that some regional environmental bodies are established as authority or bureau or agency have an impact on the protection of the environment in general and industrial pollution in particular?
Before discussing about the effect of their establishment under different names, it would be good to see their line of accountability in their respective regional power structures. This will be done by taking one regional environmental organ as a model from the three categories (authority, bureau and agency). For instance, if we take Diredawa Administration, the environmental body is established as Land Administration and Use Authority. The Authority is accountable to the Executive Committee of the Region and to the Regional President. In Amhara Regional State, the environmental body is established as Land and Environment Protection Bureau. The head of the Bureau is a member of the Regional Cabinet and is accountable to the Regional President. In Tigrai Regional State, it is established as Environment Protection and Land Use and Administration Agency (EPLAUA). It is established under the Natural Resources Department in the Bureau of Agriculture and Rural Development (BoARD). One of its main activities is land certification and for this purpose it has offices in all districts in Tigrai.
From the above discussion one can observe that the organizational line of accountability and where the power of influence in the protection of the environment in general and industrial pollution in particular lies. In principle, the closer the environmental body to the ultimate decision maker the more influential it is. If it is very far away its influence is very minimal. Hence, it will find it difficult to exercise its power properly.
For instance, in Tigrai, EPLAUA is established under the Tigrai Regional State BoARD which is environment development and management body. However, the irony is the Agency is supposed to control the BoARD from below which is practically very unrealistic organizational arrangement. This sort of organizational arrangement is against the accepted general principle of separation of power in general and against the spirit of the Environmental Protection Organs Establishment Proclamation (EPOEP, 2002) which clearly stipulates in its preamble “environmental development and management activities and environmental protection, regulations and monitoring activities should be separate in order to avoid possible conflicts of interest and duplication of efforts.”
However, at this juncture, it is important to stress that the EPLAUA was first established as an Authority but later on it has lost this status and currently it is an Agency. When it was established as an Authority, it was accountable to the Region’s Chief Executive Head. Thus, one may argue this shows the declining interest on protection of the environment in general and industrial pollution in particular in the Region. If not what else could it be?
As to EPLAUA’s difficulty to discharging its obligation, some researchers note that “EPLAUA is young, under-resourced and with little political influence to enforce environmental regulations. It is not in a position to oblige large scale enterprises [like polluting industries] to comply with the law.” (Yohannes GebreMichael & Ann Waters-Bayer, 2007) They also note that in Tigrai, even if EPLAUA is there, environmental issue is mostly associated with soil and water conservation and planting trees which is considered to be the mandate of BoARD. (Ibid) They further note that:
Environment is often regarded as something separate from and opposed to development rather than being an integral part of it. This mainstream approach to dealing with environmental issues does not encompass sustainable development through well-managed use of the environmental resources. (Ibid)
As to the practical problem of being established as an Agency, I argue that the fact that it is currently established as an Agency has serious impacts. For example, to implement its powers, it has to pass through different chains of commands. Since it is not a member of the Regional Cabinet its power is very much reduced and the allocated budget is not proportional to its activities. What is more, the fact that it is established as an agency also lowers its public perception. Furthermore, I argue that it is not only because it is an Agency that is problematic, but the fact that it has merged with the Land Administration is also very problematic. I argue that the Land administration should be part of the Regional Agricultural Bureau while the Environmental protection Department as separate independent entity.
Especially, where the economy is booming in our Region, I am of the opinion that this economic booming will have an impact on the environment and the community (for instance, industrial pollution will increase) and this requires a strong EPLAUA with capacity, autonomy and linkage. When I mean capacity, I mean the Agency’s basic organizational, fiscal, and human capital to control environmental degradation and industrial pollution in the Region. By linkage, I mean the social and political connections of EPLAUA with state agencies and between EPLAUA officials and civil society actors that foster effective communication and feedback. While by autonomy, I mean protection of EPLAUA from other state organs influences and from the private sectors like industries.
But as facts on the ground show, I am of the opinion (of course not only based on mere opinion but on the empirical evidence I gathered) that EPLAUA does not have the required capacity, linkage and autonomy to prevent environmental degradation in general and industrial pollution in the Region in particular. What is more, in my judgment in our Region EPLAUA is made to have lower political status due to the fear that if it has a higher status it could veto the economic agenda in the Region. Which I believe is a fear which does not go in line with the sustainable development agenda our Region is pursuing.
However, if the Agency is required to play a meaningful role in the prevention of environmental degradation and industrial pollution in our Region, its capacity, linkage and autonomy need to be enhanced. Hence my question ANYTHING IN THE STORE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION AND LAND USE AND ADMINISTRATION AGENCY (EPLAUA) WITH REGARD TO ENHANCING ITS ORGANIZATIONAL SET UP & MAKING IT EFFECTIVE—IN THE DRAFT TIGRAI REGIONAL STATE GTP II?
Mekelle University, School of Law