POLICY BRIEF: Myanmar and China Dams: The Need for Strong Environmental Impact Assessment

Publication date: September 2017

Author: Bian Yongmin

Download the policy brief here.

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A comparative study on China’s and Myanmar’s approaches to environmental impact assessments (EIA) to hydropower projects shows that the Chinese EIA is weaker than the Myanmar EIA based on Myanmar’s EIA procedural rules of 2015 and other environmental laws and standards. These findings partially explain the not very successful Chinese investment in hydropower projects in Myanmar, which are argued to have important and often negative implications for both countries. It is argued in this policy brief that Chinese investors should take the Myanmar EIA very seriously and be aware that it covers a broad scope, adopts international standards and requires extensive transparency, when compared to the Chinese EIA. It was found that the conduct of the EIA in China is far from meeting provisions of the Myanmar EIA law, however, the Myanmar EIA, while strong on paper, has in the past been weak in practice. It still remains a great challenge for the current Myanmar government to integrate environment conservation into its economic development plans, taking into account the potential long-term environmental costs, especially when considering large-scale hydropower projects.

NGOs, entitled by Myanmar law to the right to access information on hydropower projects and to participate in the decision-making process, should help the project developers and government to understand the impacts of dams, monitor the implementation of EIA’s, and ensure that environmental management plans and mitigation measures presented in EIA reports are followed through.