HÀ NỘI — Engaging public participation in environmental impact assessments was advised to offer more chances to ethnic minority groups and to allow underprivileged people to raise their voices, in a consultation workshop held yesterday in Hà Nội.
The workshop was organised to receive comments from interested stakeholders for the draft “Regional Guidelines on Public Participation in Environmental Impact Assessments”.
The draft is to be compiled by the Regional Technical Working Group with 25 members from both Government and non-government agencies of five countries in the lower Mekong region including Việt Nam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand.
A representative from the Việt Nam River Network said giving an opportunity for ethnic minority groups to raise their voices on environmental impact assessments was necessary.
This was even more important as many projects, such as building hydro-power plants, are often located in remote areas where a lot of ethnic minority people lived, she added.
Nguyễn Thị Yến, an independent consultant, said friendly tools should be designed to assist ethnic minority people to comment on an environmental impact assessments.
At the consultation workshop, participants also highly appreciated the pressing need for the guideline in the context that Việt Nam and other countries in the region have been challenged by increasing investment projects in the Mekong region.
Lê Duy Tiến, head of the Science, Technology and Environment Department under the Việt Nam Union of Science and Technology Associations, said under the guideline, this was the first time that public participation was involved from the very first steps of a project.
At present, public participation was only involved after an environmental impact assessment was compiled, he said.
Phạm Quỳnh Hương, a sociology expert said the guideline was expected to create a foundation from which people could really contribute their comments on an environmental impact assessment.
Speaking at the workshop, head of the Việt Nam Environment Administration under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Nguyễn Văn Tài, said after the guideline was officially launched, the administration would consult with the Government to consider putting the guidelines into regulations for implementing in Việt Nam.
Tài also said public participation in environmental impact assessments was an indispensable activity that aimed to raise the effectiveness of an environmental impact assessment for a project.
For interested stakeholders, the draft regional EIA guideline is currently available in English for online comments via the website http://mekongcitizen.org/EIA.
Lê Hoàng Lan, a national advisor and member of the Regional Technical Working Group, said the deadline for feedback was October 31. — VNS