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Application of foreign rules and local constraints : a case study of the environmental impact assessment in the Pudong New Area, China Gravel, Caroline

Abstract

Rapid increases in environmental problems have been observed in China since the beginning of the economic reforms in 1978. Numerous policy mechanisms have been implemented in order to control the pollution levels nationwide. The objective of this research is to evaluate the efficiency of one pollution prevention policy process, the Environmental Impact Assessment, in one of the most economically dynamic areas of China, the Pudong New Area in Shanghai. The Environmental Impact Assessment was selected because it is a pollution prevention planning tool that has been widely used in developed countries for over thirty years, and in China for over 20 years. The enactment in 2002 of the People's Republic of China Environmental Impact Assessment Law has reinforced the status of the Environmental Impact Assessment. Its implementation and enforcement in a developing country were seen as an interesting example of selective adaptation, where foreign rules are balanced with local norms. The investigation method combined a literature review and on-site data collection. Data collection combined quantitative data collection about Environmental Impact Assessment numbers and qualitative data from interviews. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with professionals involved at different levels with the Environmental Impact Assessment. Interviews gave detailed information about the different steps of the Environmental Impact Assessment process, which led to the identification of the constraints in the process. Results from the interviews show there are several problems limiting the efficiency of the Environmental Impact Assessment in preventing pollution. These include a narrow focus on pollution, limited public participation, and a lack of enforcement and monitoring, a result of financial and human resources constraints in the local Environmental Protection Bureaus. It is argued that these are part of wider institutional constraints in the environmental protection system in China, and that the implementation of the People's Republic of China Environmental Impact Assessment Law is highly dependent on how these issues will be resolved.

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