Wednesday, March 10, 2010


On August 31, 2009, the de facto government of Honduras announced a new accelerated program to approve environmental licenses for projects. Under the program, private industry would fund 35 new positions for lawyers and technicians at SERNA, the Secretary of Natural Resources and Climate, to speed up the approval of environmental licenses for projects such as housing developments, roads, dams, and such, which take an average of two years to get approved. The goal of the acceleration was to get through the entire backlog of 1200 applications by year end.

Less than a month after the program had been funded, SERNA had approved 320 of those programs and turned over the environmental licenses, projects like a new pier for cruise ships to dock on the Bay Island of Roatan, housing, restaurants, pharmaceutical factories, chemical plants, dams, none of which raised any environmental concerns according to SERNA last September 26.

Now comes word that the Prosecutor for Environmental Crimes is worried, according to the office of the Public Prosecutor. Aldo Santos, the prosecutor in charge, has seen a number of clearly worrisome projects with environmental licenses approved under this accelerated process.
"The prosecutor already has the first reports of some licenses that should be reviewed because their environmental permits were issued in less than nine days under the previous administration, and that really scares us because in so many years of being here with the theme of the environment, physically it is impossible for an environmental license to be given in nine or ten days."

Among the licenses he is investigating are several for dam projects near La Ceiba which were approved under the accelerated processes at SERNA.
"This office is not opposed to having more dams, if needed, but these should be built within the law, the Constitution, and above all, with proper mitigation, not as official grants to help a friend or member of a political party, that's irresponsible."

So, under the de facto government, environmental license approvals went from an average of 720 days wait, to 9 or 10 days. The real question is, why did it take even 9 or 10 days? They clearly weren't doing the required oversight, so why weren't the licenses just issued immediately? Maybe it was the sheer volume of environmental licenses they were handing out to their backers....

No comments: