Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - New guidelines on impact assessments almost ready

New guidelines on impact assessments almost ready

Workers construct the framework of foundations at Stung Treng’s Lower Sesan II dam construction site in late 2014.
Workers construct the framework of foundations at Stung Treng’s Lower Sesan II dam construction site in late 2014. Phak Seangly

New guidelines on impact assessments almost ready

Civil society groups are getting closer to unveiling a new set of guidelines that will change how the impact of big development projects is assessed across the Mekong region, NGOs said yesterday, following the end of a two-month public consultation period.

Activists, however, remained sceptical yesterday that the guidelines would have the intended effect, given what they characterised as the government’s failure to abide by similar regulations already in place.

The Regional Guidelines on Public Participation in Environmental Impact Assessment – slated to be signed in May – will promote citizen involvement in assessing the potential impact of projects like hydropower dams, power plants and mines.

The first draft was drawn up by a regional working group with the help of advisers from the US and EU. The public consultation period for the draft closed on Monday with over 2,000 comments collected.

Organisations involved in the process say the guidelines will change the conversation around development projects by giving a voice to those directly affected by them. “We think these guidelines are well placed to move the dial on public participation in the region, with no small credit to the collaborative approach we’ve taken in their development,” said Christy Owen, country director for the Mekong Partnership for the Environment, which helped form the working group.

In addition to collecting public comments, the group consulted about 500 people in government, civil society, business and academia from around the region. Roughly 130 of those people hailed from Cambodia. Officials from the Ministry of Environment, NGO Forum and Development and Partnership in Action all participated in the working group.

But despite the wide array of input, some wondered whether it will be possible to enforce the guidelines in Cambodia after the agreement is signed.

“The country’s constitution, relevant domestic laws and mechanisms, as well as international treaties are openly violated by those personally profiting from those projects. I don’t see how it will be any different with this new set of guidelines,” said environmental activist Alex Gonzalez-Davidson.

Environmental consultant Chea Phallika, meanwhile, said the guidelines should have more teeth than the Environmental Impact Assessment sub-decree passed in 1999.

“The law is more important than a sub-decree. I hope these guidelines will be transformed into law,” Phallika said.

While acknowledging that enforcement would be a “challenge”, the Mekong Partnership’s Owen nonetheless maintained that governments are increasingly realising that such assessments are “no longer optional”.

The Ministry of Environment could not be reached.

MOST VIEWED

  • Time to avert disastrous Covid situation: officials

    The Covid-19 situation in Cambodia is heading towards further large-scale community transmission as the total number of confirmed cases is nearing 61,000 and the death toll passed 900 on July 10, senior health officials warned. Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine expressed concern that the country was going

  • Two luxury hotels latest quarantine options for inbound travellers

    The Inter-Ministerial Committee to Combat Covid-19 has designated two luxury hotels as alternative quarantine options for travellers who wish to enter Cambodia through Phnom Penh International Airport – Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel & Residence and the Courtyard by Marriott Phnom Penh. In a notice detailing guidelines issued

  • Visa A holders get to quarantine at Himawari Hotel

    The Ministry of Health has permitted foreign diplomats, UN and International NGO officials to undergo quarantine at Himawari Hotel in the capital in case they do not have a separate place suitable for this purpose, but the government would not be responsible for the expenses.

  • Baby saved as mother is lost to Covid

    Newborn baby Neth David has had a rough start in the world. His mother, Vong Daneth, was seven months pregnant when she contracted a severe case of Covid-19. When it became clear to her doctors that she would not survive, they performed a cesarean section

  • Jabs for kids bring hope for school reopenings

    Cambodia is tentatively planning to reopen schools – at least at the secondary level – when the vaccination of children aged 12-17 is completed, even though daily transmissions and deaths in other age groups remain high. Schools across the country have been suspended since March 20, one month

  • Hun Sen: Get 12-17 age group ready for Covid jabs

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has told parents of children aged 12-17 in Phnom Penh and the provinces of Kandal and Preah Sihanouk to get them ready for vaccinations soon. “There is a need to vaccinate children and youths aged 12 to 17. According to the statistics provided