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Building capacity for environmental planning in Viet Nam : the role of development aid environmental impact assessment programmes Doberstein, Brent A.

Abstract

This dissertation examines contentions in academic literature that a planning model of EIA' is a promising means by which to support sustainable development in developing countries. The planning model structures EIA as a participatory and value-laden planning process, linked to political planning and decision-making processes, embracing uncertainty, and incorporating multiple ways of knowing about environmental/social impacts. This contrasts with the 'technical model of EIA': a rational/technical product, using scientific techniques and skilled technicians to predict and quantify environmental and social impacts. Research was carried out in Viet Nam, using a comparative case study approach. Development-aid EIA capacity-building programmes were used as case studies (n=9). Crosscase analysis was used to distill patterns, processes and outcomes common to the cases. The research employed a range of data gathering and analytical methods, including: collection of secondary sources, historical analysis, contents analysis, key informant interviewing (n=64) and direct observation. In only five years of effort, development aid programmes have helped to transform the role of EIA in Viet Nam. From a training and awareness raising tool, EIA has become an officially mandated process beginning to influence the design of new projects and the wider Vietnamese development planning process. However, these programmes have a confusingly high degree of variation in EIA models promoted, ranging from a 'strong technical model' to a 'moderate planning model'. The planning model of EIA was not a strong influence when Viet Nam first implemented its EIA process, nor has such a model been fully promoted by development aid capacitybuilding programmes. These programmes have had only limited success in promoting some elements of the planning model of EIA, including: EIA beyond project levels; longer-term EIA processes and impact monitoring, and; awareness of the need to broaden assessment beyond biophysical impacts. A number of areas of change are critical if aid agencies wish to promote a more complete planning model. The dissertation concludes with a call for development aid agencies to reposition EIA capacity-building programmes as a deliberate attempt to transform aspects of the development planning contexts of developing countries, rather than to merely strengthen EIA and planning capacities within an unsustainable development planning process.

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