International Journal of Environmental Sciences

Volume 3 Issue 6 2013- June 2013    Pages: 2080-2113  <<Previous    Next>>

Environmental impact assessment in Lao PDR: A comparative study on the gaps between procedures and practice with reference to Japan

Author Information:

Sengdeuane Wayakone1, Inoue Makoto2, Sachihiko Harashina3

1- National University of Laos, Office of International Relations, PO Box: 7322, Vientiane, Lao PDR,
2- Global Forest Environmental Studies, Department of Global Agricultural Sciences, Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences, The University of Tokyo

3- Faculty of Policy Informatics, Chiba University of Commerce

ABSTRACT

The environmental impact assessment (EIA) is an important legislative and scientific tool for assisting and improving the quality of the decision-making process for sustainable development (IAIA 1999; Holder 2004; Elliott and Thomas 2009). EIAs are now established in many countries of the developed and developing world. EIA systems do, however, vary greatly between procedures and actual practice. Some countries have clear regulations, others have administrative guidelines, and others have more ad hoc procedures. Those with well-established procedures may not necessarily be those with the most successful implementation. This can be a particular problem in the less developed countries, and this article explores and seeks to explain the nature of the EIA procedure–practice gap in Laos and to make comparisons with the EIA system of Japan. The histories of EIA implementation by the national governments of Japan and Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) are different. Japan started to develop policies and guidelines in the 1970s and progressed to legislation in the 1990s. However, Lao PDR started in 1993 with the first National Environmental Action Plan, which provides a framework for the EIA process in the country. The EIA system of Lao PDR appears to be less efficient in the application and review process than Japan, and coordination between EIA proponents, consultants, ministries concerned, local authorities, planners, and decision-makers is generally weaker. This leads to not only causing delays in decision-making but also poses a hindrance to effective implementation of environmental regulations. Thus, the appraisal of issues, the decision-making process, and evaluation through monitoring are not always performed well in Lao PDR.

EIA legislation in Lao PDR has many strengths, but also some key weaknesses. There are problematic links with planning procedures, a lack of secondary regulations, very few trained and skilled personnel or material resources, inadequate public consultation, lack of environmental data, and weak follow-up and monitoring. There are weaknesses in the EIA process, and the EIA approval procedure is very bureaucratic and easily derailed by political and economic pressures. These are common problems that have happened mostly in developing countries in the past few decades.

The relative strengths and weaknesses of the EIA system in Lao PDR are highlighted through a comparison with Japan’s practices, using a checklist approach. The article concludes with recommendations to strengthen the system which encompasses improvement of capacity building, creation of an effective EIA consultant accreditation system, assurance of effective public participation and access to EIA reports, application of a systematic environmental impact assessment process, review of the criteria, and enhancement of environmental awareness about the future of the EIA system in Lao PDR.

Keywords: Environmental Impact Assessment, Lao PDR/Japan Comparison, strengths and weaknesses, procedures and practices

DOI:10.6088/ijes.2013030600026

© 2013 Copyright by the authors, licensee Integrated Publishing Association.This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (3.0) which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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