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NGOs call for development transparency

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Thy Try, the executive director of Open Development Cambodia (ODC), said at the workshop on Promoting Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) at Himawari Hotel in Phnom Penh yesterday. Heng Chivoan

NGOs call for development transparency

The Ministry of Environment has been urged to release the results of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) reports made in the process of approving development projects to improve transparency and enable further monitoring.

A ministry spokesman responded by saying all relevant non-political NGOs are invited to attend EIA meetings, with a summary released thereafter.

The call came at a workshop on promoting EIAs and sustainable development in Phnom Penh on Tuesday attended by some 50 participants, including students and conservation NGOs.

Thy Try, the executive director of Open Development Cambodia (ODC), said the Ministry of Environment should release EIAs, final reports and all other information into the public domain for study by researchers, relevant NGOs and development partners, and particularly those directly affected by such projects.

He said his organisation had unofficially obtained only 10 EIA reports.

The lack of EIA announcements included those granting economic land concessions (ELCs), the construction of hydroelectric dams, and the extraction of mineral resources, among others.

Such reports must be made public to avoid disputes and to ensure the independent monitoring of the environmental impacts of such development, Try said.

“The Ministry of Environment grants licenses for development based on EIAs, so if the [ministry] approves a report, at least a summary of it . . . should be made public. If not, those wishing to know such information can face difficulties finding it."

“The reports are very important because they reveal how people will be affected and the ownership of the development. If they are in the public domain, projects can be monitored and communities can see how they will benefit from them,” he said.

Chapter 3 of the Environmental Protection and Natural Resource Management Law on Environmental Impact Assessment requires an EIA to be carried out for any project whether funded by the state or the private sector.

EIAs should be examined and assessed by the Environment Ministry before being sent to the government for a final decision.

Sey Peou, Environment and Climate Change Alliance (NECA) network coordinator at NGO Forum on Cambodia (NGOF), said there are thousands of EIAs the Ministry of Environment allows companies nationwide to study, but only a small portion has been made public.

“NGOF has obtained over 400 EIA reports, which is a small number compared with the up to 3,000 to 4,000 the Ministry of Environment has approved,” he said.

Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra said the ministry has been working on the issue for a long time. Relevant non-political NGOs are invited to attend all EIA meetings on any project. After each meeting, the ministry announces the summary of the EIA results.

“The ministry is preparing procedures for announcing certain information for the benefit of the public. However, whole reports can’t be announced because some information must remain confidential to the company concerned, like those regarding production chains."

“In processing EIAs, the ministry looks at the positive and negative impacts on the environment and communities."

“It also focuses on other recommendations and is responsible for ensuring the approved development projects either do not impact or demonstrate minimal social and environmental impacts,” he said.

Hang Molika, a student at the Royal University of Phnom Penh’s natural resource management and development department, said she had found it hard to access EIA reports officially because their sharing remained limited. She said it was important to release EIAs to the public.

“When I look for this kind of document to study, it is very difficult because little is shared regarding EIAs. I want EIAs shared with the public so people are aware of how development will impact them,” she said.

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