Building Environmental Impact Assessment Capacity in Cambodia

When Chea Leng learned about environmental impact assessment (EIA) in the mid-1990s it was a concept few in Cambodia knew much about. Two decades on, the country’s attempts to mainstream EIA have met with mixed results. But Leng, who is the deputy director of the Ministry of Environment’s Environmental Impact Assessment Department, believes that is soon going to change.

This is because a new, comprehensive draft EIA that covers climate change, gender, and public participation is in the works. “Overall, there is now stronger political support and the EIA process is becoming more rigorous and systematic,” says Leng.

In 2014, Ministry of Environment sought the CEP’s support to review the country’s EIA practices and develop a priority plan for improvements. The review found, among other things, that provincial EIA departments were understaffed, and lacked the expertise and experience to effectively oversee EIAs.

Mr. Leng agrees with the review, pointing out that having enough people with the right expertise to oversee and implement EIAs is as important as ensuring the right laws and regulations are in place to carry out these assessments.

In Cambodia, EIA provincial departments are responsible for reviewing environmental assessment reports and monitoring compliance for investment projects worth up to $2 million. Provincial authorities, however, are often unable to cope. Much of their workload is passed back to the Environmental Impact Assessment Department in Phnom Penh, which is itself overstretched in dealing with bigger investment projects, such as mines, hydro power schemes, and large agriculture concessions.

Following the review, the CEP and the department partnered to train provincial officials to review EIA reports and monitor compliance. In 2015 and 2016, four multiday workshops were held around the country, involving 150 provincial EIA officials.

“Before CEP, our provincial officials had never been trained on EIA review; they just learned by doing, but were often afraid and unsure how to deal with these lengthy EIA reports,” says Leng.

He praised the program’s training for using a step-by-step and practical learning approach based on actual EIA reports. “Our officials quickly developed greater understanding and more confidence to perform their role,” he adds.

Even though CEP’s participation ended in 2016, the department continues this work by using our training methods and materials in its EIA workshops.  But Leng says more external support will be needed to build Cambodia’s EIA expertise to the level required.

Publish Date: 30th March 2018

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