Green Light for Scrutiny: Ethiopia Tightens Environmental Checks on Consulting Firms

Ethiopia's Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) is cracking down on lax environmental assessments with stricter regulations for consulting firms. The new directive, signed by Director General Lelise Neme last month, establishes tougher standards and licensing requirements.

A key change involves a three-tiered competency system for consultants, ensuring they possess the experience and qualifications for the job. Renewals will be required every three years to maintain certification.

Foreign consulting firms will also face new hurdles. They are now mandated to form partnerships with local Ethiopian counterparts to obtain licensing. This move, according to EPA lead executive Sheferaw Negash, aims to foster knowledge transfer and a deeper understanding of local contexts.

The licensing process itself is becoming more rigorous. Applications can take up to three years for thorough review, ensuring a high standard for environmental assessments.

But the directive isn’t just about paperwork. The EPA is prioritizing assessments that effectively mitigate social and environmental impacts, particularly in critical sectors like agriculture, manufacturing, and mining.

“The absence of robust legal frameworks has allowed firms with limited resources to conduct assessments,” said Sheferaw, highlighting the need for accountability.

The stricter regulations are welcomed by some experts. Environmental economist Abebe Damtew emphasized the importance of comprehensive assessments using expertise from various fields. He also pointed out a lack of awareness among companies regarding the value of these assessments.

However, challenges remain. The availability of qualified professionals across all necessary fields is a concern. Additionally, manufacturers like Colba Tannery have expressed skepticism about the capabilities of some consulting firms. The lengthy application process may also cause delays and raise costs for companies.

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