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In December I jointly published an article with Ashlee Stetser ’15 titled “On the Path to Sustainable Development: An Assessment of Cambodia’s Draft Environmental Impact Assessment Law” in the Cambodia Law and Policy Journal.  The article can be found here.

As summarized in the article, the Kingdom of Cambodia has experienced remarkable economic growth ever since the early 1990’s when it finally emerged from decades of turmoil brought about by colonialism, the destruction of the Khmer Rouge era, intervention by Vietnam, and civil war.  On average, Cambodia’s GDP has grown at about 7% per year since 1992, placing it at the forefront of post-conflict societies in terms of economic growth.  While such growth has helped to raise living standards in Cambodia and provide greater opportunities to alleviate poverty, it has also wrought untold damage on Cambodia’s environment and rich natural resources.  Moreover, the rapid influx of foreign direct investment to the country, predominantly from China, has only increased the pressure on Cambodia’s environment and people.

Cambodia is trying to address these issues and put itself on a more sustainable development path, in part by completely overhauling its Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) system and issuing a new EIA law.     Although Cambodia’s 1996 Law on Environmental Protection and Natural Resource Management and 1999 Sub-Decree on Environmental Impact Assessment Process contain EIA requirements, they are often completely ignored.  Indeed, from 1999 to 2003 essentially no projects in Cambodia conducted the required EIAs, and from 2004 to 2011 only 110 out of about 2,000 projects conducted EIAs.

Accordingly, many people in Cambodia recognize the need for a stronger EIA system.  In 2012 Cambodia’s Ministry of the Environment and the Vishnu Law Group, Cambodia’s leading public interest law firm, drafted a new EIA law.  Vishnu and the MOE have since worked together to distribute the draft widely and hold a series of public consultation meetings in order to raise awareness of the law and to gather and incorporate concerns and comments from a variety of stakeholders.  In doing so, Cambodia is potentially ‘raising the EIA bar’ in the Mekong region with regards to both the process of forming the law and the content of the law itself.  Of course, the law still must be finalized and presented to the National Assembly for adoption, which is currently expected to happen in late 2015 or early 2016.  The article assesses the fifth draft of the EIA law, which provides clarity on institutional authority and EIA process, includes strong public participation and information disclosure requirements, expands the universe of impacts that must be considered in an EIA, and provides for monitoring and enforceability, among other things.

If you’re interested in learning more, please have a read and let us know what you think.

 

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