The SoE reporting system in India provides a good example where monitoring and evaluation became a tool to make the national process a success (Box 1). Monitoring and evaluation increased the perception of saliency (i.e., of current importance), credibility (i.e., can we believe the results) and legitimacy (i.e., can we trust the results) of the environmental assessment. In India’s case you can see a systematic effort to embed SoE reporting in state-level governance to addresses environmental issues (e.g., in Punjab, Kerala and Chandigarh), and to strengthen capacities at the level of individuals, organizations (e.g., state and national lead agencies) and institutions (i.e., evidence-based policy making).
Box 1: SoE Reporting, India – Monitoring and Evaluation of a Reporting Process
The SoE reporting system of India has been monitored and evaluated closely, with the aim of embedding the reporting system in the practice of state governments. This ongoing programme involves building capacities for the preparation of SoE reports within the state/regional institutions and governments and the national government, and supporting triennial SoE reporting by state and national governments.
The process was carefully designed. Only a few expert institutions, designated national host institutions (NHI), were given the responsibility of identifying state host institutions (SHI) and building interest and capability within those SHIs to undertake SoE reporting. Beyond training, NHI also review progress made by SHIs in developing their products, provide expert input on the frameworks of analysis and critically analyze the products before final publication.
SHIs are responsible for identifying and mobilizing partners, facilitating a participatory process, collecting and analyzing information, interacting with NHIs and developing SoE products.
At the national level, the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests, the lead ministry for the programme, periodically evaluates the progress made by NHIs and SHIs through review meetings. Funding is tied to the demonstration of progress.
A two-stage monitoring and evaluation process is in place. The NHIs’ performance evaluation (done by the ministry) is linked to the level of success they achieve, as indicated by the number of states that have made significant progress towards establishing systems for SoE analysis, and for publishing a final SoE report. The second element relates to the linkage between NHI and SHIs, and it is only through NHI certification that an SHI receives funding. In this case, the tangible indicator is the SoE report, but interim continuity in the process is ensured by the NHI, as their ultimate evaluation is based on the number of reports they supported. As for the imperatives at the state level, a careful selection of SHIs is essential for the success of this programme. A proactive SHI, with its linkages and wherewithal, will ensure a close monitoring of the actors/institutions involved, and will deliver results.
Overall response to the programme has been mixed, but SHIs that have taken this initiative seriously are establishing benchmarks for all states, even those that are less responsive. Some progressive states, such as Punjab, Chandigarh and Kerala, have successfully produced SoEs, and are working towards their next products, focusing on emerging environmental challenges.
Monitoring and evaluation of an IEA process enhances communication between the cycle of scientific data collection and processing, and the cycle of policy making. This “coupling” function can help to ensure that evidence originating from either scientific or indigenous knowledge is fed into policy making early enough. Because it can take decades and a series of political cycles to develop the right set of policies after discovery of the first evidence of an emerging environmental problem, the role of monitoring cannot be overstated.
Without an impact strategy (Module 3) and monitoring and evaluation (Module 8), the IEA process could run the risk of not being able to influence policy making.