Most GMS countries still lack the capacity to effectively assess and manage the environmental impacts of development. Many investment projects in the region have unintended, but often avoidable, negative impacts on people and the environment.

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) – also called safeguards - is an important approach to better design projects to minimize negative, and optimize positive, impacts.  By focusing on the project level, EIA complements the Strategic Environment Assessment approach, which shapes national and sector plans and policies to be more environmentally sustainable and socially responsible.

A country safeguards system should have the following basic elements:

  • An appropriate regulatory environment – laws, regulations and policies supporting the mainstreaming of EIA
  • Clear guidance on the type and scale of projects that need to undergo EIA
  • Appropriate EIA tools as well as institutional and technical capacity to:
    • screen projects early in the design process to understand likely impacts
    • where impacts are potentially significant, conduct a full EIA to understand negative impacts in depth and recommend corrective measures to the project design
    • monitor and enforce the application of EIA and subsequent mitigation measures 

EIA has been widely adopted globally, but in the GMS this has been to varying success. Some countries, such as PRC and Thailand, have well advanced safeguards systems and capacity. Myanmar, on the other hand, has only begun to introduce the approach. A common thread in the GMS is that EIA application is often inconsistent across projects, and remedies or mitigation measures recommended by EIA reports are either not sufficiently effective or are simply not acted upon. 

The Core Environment Program is assisting GMS countries to develop and improve their country safeguard systems. The objective is to strengthen the capacity of GMS countries to self-manage the environmental and social risks of development projects. Recognizing differences in the maturity of country EIA systems, CEP’s safeguards support responds to specific country needs, which may include improving EIA regulatory frameworks, training EIA practitioners, promoting participatory assessment processes, and securing funding for EIA mainstreaming. Knowledge exchange and learn-by-doing approaches are central to the CEP approach.

CEP’s safeguards work is closely coordinated with ADB efforts to enhance the effectiveness, sustainability, and development impact of the Bank’s projects, as well as to complement other ADB initiatives aiming to strengthen country safeguard systems.

Click here to find out more about these activities and other CEP work on safeguards.

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