Lao PDR encourages public involvement in Environmental and Social Impact Assessments
The Government of Lao PDR is increasingly recognizing the need for Environmental and Social Impact Assessments (ESIA) to guide investment projects in the country. The Deputy Director General of the Cabinet Office at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE), Mr. Phetsamone Daralome, recognizes that investment projects in Lao PDR play an important role in poverty reduction through the creation of new jobs at the local level. However, Mr. Daralome also stresses that “if these investment projects are not properly managed, they will generate impacts on the environment and society, for instance, depletion of natural resources, environmental degradation and impacts on livelihood of local people.” These negative impacts may be counterproductive in terms of the gains made through the creation of new jobs.
The government of Lao PDR regards public involvement as an important element in conducting ESIAs of investment projects to ensure sustainable development and stresses that the public should be granted the right to be involved throughout the ESIA process. To further this process the government adopted Guidelines for Public Involvement in ESIA’s in February 2013 and organized together with PEI and the Environmental Management Support Programme (EMSP), training on the application of the guidelines from 26-28 June, 2013. The training included a field visit to a village that has experienced large scale investment projects. Based on positive feedback from the training participants additional trainings will be organized in different provinces during 2013.
Following the workshop PEI Lao PDR held its first board meeting on the 3rd of July 2013. In the opening remarks the Vice minister of the Ministry of Planning and Investment, H.E Somchith Inthamith, highlighted that PEI ‘is one of the core projects in Ministry of Planning and Investment, working to improve institutional knowledge on managing the quality aspects of investments that will contribute to poverty reduction and environmental protection’. As investments in Lao PDR keeps on increasing PEI’s assistance to further promote ‘the better management of investments that pushes the inclusiveness of business operations, to benefit the people and protect the environment, could not have come at a better time.’