A range of enviroLENS tools and services are applied across several use cases in cooperation with national and local partners to illustrate the power and flexibility of the eLENS Portal to tackle different environmental issues.
CAse 1: Environmental Impact Assessment Process (DLA Piper)
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a procedure used to examine the environmental impacts and consequences, both beneficial and adverse, of a proposed infrastructure project and to ensure that these effects have been taken into account in the project’s design phase. The main EIA objectives are (i) to ensure that environmental considerations are addressed and incorporated into the development process; (ii) to anticipate and avoid, minimize or offset any biophysical, social or other effects of development proposals; (iii) to protect the productivity and capacity of natural systems and the ecological processes that maintain their functions; and (iv) to promote development that is sustainable and optimizes resource use and management opportunities.
Satellite remote sensing is a powerful and efficient tool that could ensure acquisition of images over wide areas in short time and with great repetition, to be used in environmental impact studies. These could be to monitor and detect the impacts caused by urban development, mining and land changes that appeared due to the human or natural factors. To validate the functionality of EO in this context, DLA Piper will focus on two examples that are located close to important ecosystems, including Key Biodiversity Areas and national parks. EIAs would be carried out prior to the projects on renewable energy generation go ahead to estimate their possible impacts on the sensitive areas, such as solar power plant projects.
Potential stakeholders in the context of this case are the individuals and communities affected by the proposed plant site, proponents and other project beneficiaries, government agencies, NGOs as well as the private sector and academics. The use case will cover the following three topics of key importance:
- Gathering of relevant information on the use of designated areas;
- Its compliance with environmental and social impact requirements; and
- the application and issuance of required and relevant permits for the construction and operation of energy plants.
Case 2: force majeure in energy contracts (DLA Piper)
Force majeure (FM) is a legal principle, either provided for by contract or imposed on parties by law or courts, which fully or partially frees both parties from liability when an extraordinary event or circumstance beyond the control of the parties prevents one or both of them to perform their contractual obligations. FM provisions can be found in any commercial contract and often give rise to dispute and litigation due to the difficulty of proving whether or not an FM event has occurred.
The system of oil and gas pipelines serves as a national and international network to move the resources needed from production ports to consumers as efficiently as possible. The rules and regulations governing the operation and monitoring of natural gas and oil transmission pipelines vary significantly from country to country. Gas and oil pipelines are routinely inspected and monitored by the operational organizations during the planning, construction, operation, and decommissioning phases.
Broadly speaking, EO Services may be applied to identify and provide evidence of both the (non-)occurrence and the impact of an FM event. On the one hand, this means using EO to help a party prove that the other party is falsely claiming FM to be freed from its obligations under the contract. EO may provide evidence that either (a) the FM event has not occurred, (b) that it has occurred but was not the reason the other party failed to perform, or (c) that the other party has not mitigated the consequences following an FM event. On the other hand, this means that EO can be used to help prove that an FM event has, in fact, occurred and that the other party is wrongfully preventing an FM clause from being triggered.
In both of these scenarios, EO systems would allow for the collection of data that can provide clear evidence for the claim of a client and, thus, avoid dispute resolution at court and the related costs of litigation. The stakeholders of this case are the contracting parties themselves and any customers and third parties that benefit from the performance of the contract. The topics this case will focus on are:
- The gathering of relevant information on the nature and scope of a certain event;
- The contractual obligations of parties to an energy contract; and
- The compliance with environmental and social impact laws.
Case 3: Oil and Gas Pipeline Monitoring For Safety and Environment (DLA Piper)
The monitoring methods most widely used for natural gas transmission pipelines include foot patrols along the pipeline route and aerial surveillance using small plans or helicopters. Environmental monitoring of the pipelines involves the assessment of conditions of vegetation along and across the pipeline; assessment of environmental disturbance during construction and operational phases; detection and monitoring of spills; and impacts from pipelines and facilities; determination of slope stability; identification and location of land-use change including agricultural, forest, industrial and residential; evaluation of recovery and rehabilitation from accidental spills and decommissions; detection of human encroachments.
Satellite EO supports a wide range of disaster types, including the very long-term monitoring of climate phenomena. Within the framework of the pipeline monitoring use case, enviroLENS will evaluate how EO services can be applied to monitor and detect disturbances to the pipeline network by accidental spills, encroachment from human activities, and land form changes due to fires, floods, and other natural events that fall under the Force Majeure clause.
The stakeholders of this case include companies that trade with the oil or gas which is being transported or any pipeline operator companies, as well as people, communities and organizations that are affected by a potential pipeline disturbance or pipeline leak. Further, NGOs and other interested groups as well as government agencies (as the government has the obligation to prevent large-scale natural disasters) are also considered stakeholders. This case will focus on:
- the gathering of relevant information on the state of a pipeline, the surrounding areas and any unusual activity that may cause a disturbance;
- compliance with environmental and social impact requirements; and
- pipeline accidents and the destruction of the environment and/or the endangering of lives and ecosystems.
Case 4: PROTECTION OF BIRD HABITATS IN MONTENEGRO (IUCN)
The case is centred on several areas along the border to Albania, from Velika Plaža (beach), including its hinterland Štoj, and Ada Bojana (island that sits at the mouth of the Buna/Bojana River), through the newly announced protected area Ulcinj Salina (1500 ha wetland, former salt works), and further North Lake Skadar National Park.
Stretching about 12km, Velika Plaža is among the longest beaches in Europe. With its rising popularity has come an influx of construction projects and an increased pressure from human activities for both beach and hinterland. The area also features natural pressures in the form of erosion, which will be especially important to monitor for the island in the river mouth, Ada Bojana.
Ulcinj Salina was recently designated as a protected area and the process of installing the necessary management is now underway. The area was in use as a salt works until 2013 and infrastructure such as dikes channels created for the purpose had the positive benefit of helping to create a habitat for a very large amount of migratory birds. Since the collapse of the salt business, the area has fallen into disrepair along with its quality as a habitat, but with the recent designation, it will be the goal to restore and maintain the quality of the habitat.
Two-thirds of Lake Skadar is on the Montenegrin side of the border, with the remainder across the border in Albania. Varying seasonally between 37.000ha and 53.000ha, it is the largest lake on the Balkan Peninsula and is famous for its diversity of both flora and fauna. The National Park established in 1983 (Ramsar site in 1996) protects an area of 40.000ha on the Montenegrin side. The area is under threat from illegal logging and encroaching urbanisation and construction projects.
In addition to the areas near the border and the case in Albania, our partners have shared their wish to monitor Nikšićko polje, which is the largest karst field in Montenegro. The field spans an area of about 4800 hectares and is located in the western part of the country. In this area, the focus will be monitoring of meadow fires and water level fluctuations to increase the understanding of the physical dynamics of the area and their effect on its function as a habitat for wildlife, as well as identify if any illegal activities are causing untoward disruptions.
Overall, the monitoring will provide up-to-date information on these key areas for relevant authorities and interested organisations. The information will serve to increase effectiveness of law enforcement by authorities by allowing quick and precise reactions to any incidents and by providing supporting evidence of violations. Furthermore, the monitoring will be able to provide data to investigate whether areas comply with national and international regulations relating to the healthy status of the different categories of areas. Lastly, it can provide compelling visual evidence for organisations to create awareness of potentially illegal or unregulated activities that can be of harm to the area.
Case 5: ILLEGAL INFRASTRUCTURE DEVELOPMENT ON THE ALBANIAN COAST (IUCN)
Buna River Velipojë Protected Landscape (BRVPL) comprises one of the most important coastal wetlands areas of Albania. The landscape covers 23.027ha located between Lake Shkodra (Skadar) and the Adriatic Sea in north-west Albania. It was designated as a protected landscape in 2005 (IUCN category V) and has been further recognized as a wetland of international importance by designation under the Ramsar Convention. Being part of the European Green Belt, the landscape is also an Important Bird and Plant Area. Situated around the delta of the Buna River, the protected landscape supports a great variety of wetland communities.
For this case, we will focus on unsustainable tourism activities that are most obvious in the large tourism infrastructure development in the coastal area, which encompasses part of the core zone of BRVPL. This has had a number of adverse impacts including: loss, degradation and fragmentation of natural habitats, particularly coastal and wetlands habitats; degradation of the landscape through the construction of new tourism installations and infrastructure; pollution of marine and freshwaters due to increased discharge of polluted and untreated wastewaters; and disturbance of wilderness areas.
This applies in particular to the Velipojë forest and wetland complex within the core parts of the protected area and the sand dune features that are suffering direct degradation from high levels of use by beach tourists.
Existing management frameworks such as: Management Plan for BRVPL (2016-2025), Integrated Resource Management Plan for the Buna/Bojana Area restrict the unsustainable tourism infrastructure development in the coastal zone but inefficient control and inadequate mechanisms for the sanctioning of illegal development represent one of the major challenges. Therefore, the utilization of the eLENS portal can quantify the aforementioned changes and provide a powerful tool for stakeholders to take action to enforce environmental protection. The monitoring will have the potential to serve as both direct evidence for authorities, as a tool to optimise the authorities control measures, and a powerful visual aid for various organisations to create awareness and report on the issues.
CASE 6: forest law enforcement and governance (iucn)
From 2009 through 2017 IUCN has been coordinating a Forest Law Enforcement and Governance Programme under the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument East Countries (ENPI FLEG I and II). Its main objective was to improve forest law enforcement and governance in 7 countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine) which together contain more than 20% of the world’s forests. The underpinning knowledge around forest governance, addressed by the FLEG Programme has helped to create the conditions to support the implementation of various forest related interventions. FLEG has initiated capacity development activities whereby practicing judges trained forestry staff in gathering evidence and preparing cases for court that are procedurally robust and more likely to lead to convictions of those engaging in illegal activities. The training involved education components and scenario cases and combined elements of forestry, legal processes and practical issues. The FLEG work proved to be successful and was replicated by several other donors in their target areas, but still, the problem of law enforcement needs a broader approach.
Building on the experiences from FLEG, this use case will focus on illegal logging and deforestation monitoring in Armenia. Lessons learnt show that there are still issues with lack of evidence for environmental law enforcement in Armenia, resulting in lack of prosecution of law violators. The case will focus on providing a ‘historical case’ to demonstrate the use of enviroLENS to reveal and quantify past violations, and it will investigate the potential for providing current monitoring needs. At this time, the case study is planning to study Dilijan National Park whose forests cover an area of more than 33.000 ha and which has been exposed to illegal forestry in the past, as well as land cover changes, including mining activities.