Guest blog post by IAIA Board member Claudia Valencia
I recently attended a large mining conference where I was surprised to see how little environmental and social aspects were discussed—although I must admit I may be biased, since I mostly attend IAIA conferences where environmental and social aspects are about 99% of the conference. However, amongst the few environmental and social presentations, it was great to listen to one related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) in the middle of a hard-core mining setting. But the best part was the positive reception by the audience that I perceived.
The overarching message: If EIAs are aligned to SDGs, multiple benefits can be achieved at a local, regional and national level. And how can we do this? Two main ideas:
Gather information during baseline that can be used to foster local/national efforts to achieve SDGs. Even though the Government usually gathers this kind of information, oftentimes these are at a broader scale. Projects can help raise the detail of available information for their local communities/stakeholders, which can be later used to align management programs with the SDGs and the country’s objectives. These are just some of the many examples:
Extractive projects are commonly located in remote areas; therefore, baseline information can provide important data such as number of homes with unmet basic needs (Goal 1 – No Poverty); number of agricultural lands (Goal 2 – Cero Hunger); local infant mortality and morbidity (Goal 3 – Good Health and Wellbeing); local illiteracy rate (Goal 4 – Quality Education); work distribution between men and female (Goal 5 – Gender Equality); housing with water facilities (Goal 6 – Clean Water and Sanitation); housing with electricity (Goal 7 – Affordable and Clean Energy); local unemployment and underemployment rates (Goal 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth); state of access roads to local communities (Goal 9 – Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure); basic services, household waste management, cooking fuel use (Goal 10 – Reduced Inequalities & Goal 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities); local fishing practices (Goal 14 – Life Below Water); use (frequency) of local forest products (Goal 15 – Life on Land); map of social and political actors - interests, position, degree of influence (Goal 16 – Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions & Goal 17 – Partnerships for the Goals).
Develop management, mitigation and action plans and programs, with the SDGs as a common goal. These are just some of the many examples:
Contribute so that local communities have access to water and sanitation infrastructure, together with administration and maintenance capacity building (Goals 1, 3 & 6).
Strengthen the potential and value of local products and articulate local production with larger markets, while promoting and fostering sustainable practices (Goals 1, 2, 8, 11, 15 & 17).
Improve road infrastructure which can be used by local communities, working with Municipalities and Government if possible (Goals 9, 10, 11, 15 & 17).
Conduct Cumulative Impact Assessment to identify problems at a broader scale, which can also contribute to the betterment of local environmental management practices that go beyond the operation itself (Goals 3, 11, 13 & 15).
Carry out reforestation programs with native species to protect riverbeds and watersheds, prevent erosion and contribute to improving local quality of life (Goals 3, 10, 13 & 15).
Some of these examples might be obvious and are probably already being implemented. However, if E&S Management Programs / Action Plans can be organized to follow both the mitigation hierarchy and the SDGs, then it might be easier for mining and other extractive companies and for Governments to promote local initiatives and incorporate them at a regional/national level.
If we align information and actions included in EIAs to specific SDGs, we can influence the decision-making process based on objectives that are part of a global development agenda, which benefits us all. We might already be doing many things, but small adjustments can be made so that we, as IA practitioners, can actually contribute to the “world’s best plan to build a better world for people and our planet”, i.e., the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Something the entire audience at the conferences seemed to agree upon.
IAIA members and subscribers, join the discussion on IAIAConnect!