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April 26, 2017, 1:06 pm

Public Consultations Underway to Improve Environmental Impact Assessment for Infrastructure Development

(12:40:26 PM 06/10/2016)
(Tinmoitruong.vn) - HANOI, October 5, 2016 -- More than 50 representatives from private sector companies, communities, civil society organizations, government agencies, environmental impact assessment (EIA) consulting firms gathered today at a public consultation in Hanoi to provide feedback on draft Regional Guidelines on Public Participation in Environmental Impact Assessment processes as a way to ensure these processes involve affected communities.

Mr. Nguyen Van Tai, Director General of the Vietnam Environment Administration (VEA) addresses participants at the consultations

 

The participants’ input will help improve an effort that is seen by many as critical for the region to address the environmental and social impacts of the growing array of regional development projects such as dams, mines, power plants, and industrial zones.
 
“Public participation is crucial to a quality environmental impact assessment and is at the heart of socially and environmentally responsible development,” said Craig Hart, acting USAID Vietnam Mission Director. “This will help ensure that the social, environmental, and economic aspects of development projects are considered, and contribute to shared and sustainable solutions.”
 
As the region experiences a period of rapid economic growth and increasing foreign direct investment in infrastructure projects, the regional environmental impact assessment guidelines are being developed in response to a shared concern about the social and environmental impacts of those projects. Communities and experts throughout the region have been reporting severe negative impacts on natural resources, fish populations, agriculture, community health and culture.
 
While environmental impact assessment is implemented in all lower Mekong countries, it is often hampered by a lack of effective public participation. This gap can result in adverse social and environmental impacts, project delays, and conflicts with communities, all leading to costs and risks for investors and governments. 
 
The Regional Guidelines on Public Participation in Environmental Impact Assessment  have been drafted by a multi-stakeholder Regional Technical Working Group. Formed in August 2015 with support from the USAID-funded Mekong Partnership for the Environment (MPE), the working group includes 25 civil society and government representatives from across the five lower Mekong countries, along with national advisors and technical experts including from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and European Union. 
 
 A participant from the private sector provides feedback on how to best engage communities in Environmental Impact Assessment processes.
A participant from the private sector provides feedback on how to best engage communities in Environmental Impact Assessment processes.
  
The Guidelines and the group’s participatory drafting process, “set out a good platform for joining the hands of civil society and government, along with private sector input.” said Nguyen Thi Yen of the civil society organization Women’s Intellectual Association of Environmental Protection, who joined the Hanoi consultations. “Public participation is meant to include voices of the public meaningfully throughout the development process. It’s especially important to have guidance to improve the participation of vulnerable groups in EIA processes.”
 
Today’s consultation was the first of a series to be held across all of the Lower Mekong countries of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam throughout October. The consultations provide investors, environmental impact assessment practitioners, communities, NGOs, government departments and others the opportunity to review and provide feedback on the draft guidelines. The draft guidelines are also available for public feedback via an online platform (mekongcitizen.org/EIA) through October 31.
 
After the public comment period has closed, the working group will revise the guidelines based on public input received. Once finalized, the work will turn to ensuring these guidelines are implemented by developers and used by governments to complement and improve national policies and practices. 
 
The working group is supported by the USAID-funded Mekong Partnership for the Environment, implemented by Pact in partnership with the Asian Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Network and regional governments and civil society organizations. MPE supports constructive engagement among business, government and civil society to facilitate socially and environmentally responsible development in the Mekong region.
 
A subsequent public consultation will be organized in Ho Chi Minh City on October 7.
TMT (tinmoitruong@tinmoitruong.vn)
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