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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Effectiveness of the Canadian International Development agency’s approach to environmental impact assessment Akolo, Akonyu G.


This thesis reviews the Canadian International development Agency (CIDA)’s approach to Environmental Impact Assessment (ETA) for major development projects. Two cases are studied in the thesis as examples of CIDA’s approach to ETA: The Three Gorges Dam in the People’s Republic of China, and the Mae Moh Mine and Power Plant in Thailand. The thesis uses fifteen criteria grouped into four sets to determine the effectiveness of the EIAs of the two cases studied. The four sets are: i. CIDA’s own objectives for ETA. These are that ETA should be an effective aid to decision-makers, result in a thorough analysis of the effects of projects or programmes on the quality of the environment, incorporate mitigation measures in the design of projects or programmes, result in the promotion of research which leads to technologies that economize energy, and result in environmental or related development training. ii. The social legitimacy of EIA. In order to be socially legitimate, an ETA approach should involve the participation of the people affected by the proposed project or programme, and have an impact report that reflects the interests and the preferences of the affected communities. Since the environment is perceived differently by different people, ETA approaches should serve the best interest of the community that will be affected by the project, judged in terms of immediate benefits for the local community. iii. Technical legitimacy of ETA. In order to be technically legitimate, an ETA should result in decisions that explicitly account for the impacts identified in the ETA process. An EIA process should take into account the adequacy of administrative, organizational and decision-making processes, legal instruments, and human and financial resources which are lacking in most countries receiving aid. iv. Political legitimacy of ETA. EIA procedures should be clearly understood by the countries receiving aid, or else those countries will perceive them as a western bias towards economic development in the developing countries as an exchange for environmental protection. The EIAs of the two cases studied did not meet the fundamental criterion that, CIDA’s approach to EIA should be an effective aid to decision-makers. The EIA recommendations in the cases studied were not used to guide the decision-makers in deciding the locations of the two projects, and whether to go ahead with the projects or not. The cases studied did not involve “grassroots” public participation. These EIAs, however, were successful in identifying and analyzing the impacts of the studied projects on the quality of the environment. The two ETA reports recommended mitigations to guide project design. Since ETA is an evolving process, the whole exercise seemed to be mainly a learning experience for local experts and foreign consultants.

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