On May 8, 2017 we supported the Environmental Conservation Department (ECD) of Myanmar’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation (MONREC) to host a National Consultation Meeting in Yangon on the Draft Guidelines for Public Participation in Environmental Impact Assessment. The meeting brought together over one hundred representatives of stakeholder groups including civil society, government, and the private sector. The project has been made possible through funding from USAID and the Mekong Partnership for the Environment.
Environmental impact assessment is recognized throughout the world as an essential planning tool for promoting sustainable development. In turn, public participation is recognized as an integral component of a robust environmental impact assessment process. In December 2015 MONREC (then known as the Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry) promulgated the Environmental Impact Procedure to give effect to the EIA requirements contained in Myanmar’s Environmental Conservation Law (2012) and Environmental Conservation Rules (2014). The EIA Procedure lays the groundwork for public participation in the EIA process, but generally lacks sufficient detail to provide meaningful guidance for both government and the private sector on how to provide opportunities for public participation, or for local communities who stand to be impacted by project proposals on how to ensure that their right to participate is fulfilled.
In order to fill that gap, at the request of ECD we have been working to provide technical assistance to draft a set of comprehensive guidelines to provide clarity to the public participation process in Myanmar’s EIA system. The Draft Guidelines cover a broad range of topics, including but not limited to disclosure of project-related information, gaining input from vulnerable or disadvantaged communities, and ongoing public involvement after project implementation. ECD convened a Technical Working Group composed of 15 members representing civil society, the private sector and government in order to refine the Draft Guidelines to ensure that they match the Myanmar context. The Working Group has met several times over the last few months to discuss the Draft Guidelines and provide suggestions on how they could be improved.
Monday’s National Consultation Meeting was designed to serve the same purpose, with input from a broader array of stakeholders. The meeting including representatives of local and international EIA consulting firms, local and international non-government organizations and civil society groups, as well as both local and national governmental agencies. To begin the meeting, Daw Khin Thida Tin, Director of the Yangon Environmental Conservation Department, provided opening remarks, followed by U Htin Aung Kyaw, Assistant Director of the national ECD, who gave an overview of Myanmar’s EIA system. Throughout the rest of the day we heard diverse opinions on a range of issues, including strategies for effective dissemination of project-related information, the legal statues of the Draft Guideline document, the potential costs associated with implementing the guidelines, provisions for ensuring the participation of indigenous peoples, and many more.
Later this week we will be assisting ECD to host a National Consultation Meeting specifically for other government ministries and departments in Nay Pyi Daw to gain their inputs on the Draft Guidelines. Subsequent to that, we will be working over the next month to incorporate the feedback we’ve received through the consultation meetings and through written submissions into the document to produce a final draft to present to ECD.
Since it began to open up several years ago, Myanmar has been developing at a very rapid pace. This development brings much needed economic opportunity for the people of Myanmar, but if not pursued in a measured and deliberate manner it can threaten the country’s environment, natural resources and the health of its people. It is our hope that these Guidelines on Public Participation in Environmental Impact Assessment will serve as a tool to contribute to efforts to put Myanmar’s development on a more sustainable path.
Disclaimer: The contents of this post do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.