Pema Dorji

Pema Dorji

Pema Dorji, Bhutan

Pema Dorji is currently working as Manager, Environment & Social Unit of the premiere hydropower company in Bhutan, Druk Green Power Corporation Ltd. and he has completed his Masters in Environmental Science (Water Management) under the prestigious Australia Awards Scholarship in 2015-2016 from University of South Australia, Adelaide. He has Bachelors in Applied Physical Sciences from Delhi University, India. While in Australia, he attended the 18th River Symposium (2015) under DFAT Scholarship and since then, he has always been looking forward to be part of it. Bhutan as one of the environmental bastion, guided by its developmental philosophy of Gross National Happiness has always taken environmental protection seriously by carrying out EIAs of developmental projects. However, no symptomatic study of EIA system performance and effectiveness has been carried out so far. Thus, this paper shall present a comparative study of Bhutan’s EIA system with best practice elsewhere.

Presentation Title: Comparative Study of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in Bhutan with best practices elsewhere.

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), as the major decision making tool for assessing any developmental project including hydropower projects of anticipated positive and negative environmental impacts, is adopted by many countries across the globe. EIA systems have been examined and reviewed by different countries to assess its strengths, effectiveness and weaknesses in order to recommend improvements and policy interventions. Bhutan adopted EIA late in 2000’s with the enactment of the Environmental Assessment Act, 2000 and its Regulations in 2002. However, no systematic assessment of the performance of EIA system has been as done so far. An online questionnaire survey was administered to collect views of various EIA practitioners in Bhutan on the role and performance of EIA systems in Bhutan. The questionnaire was structured to reflect the recognized stages of the EIA process. The questionnaire elucidated views from different EIA actors like regulators, consultants and project developers, which were mostly represented by EIA officers in hydropower sector. The data from the questionnaire was compiled and analysed using SurveyMonkey and SPSS enabled statistical tools. The result highlighted some challenges and constraints ingrained in Bhutan’s EIA system and suggested avenues for improvements. The survey found that EIA practitioners in Bhutan were composed mostly of younger individuals. As long as legal and administrative aspects were concerned, it was found at par with international best practices. There were mixed views on screening and scoping stages of EIA. The survey also revealed that monitoring and auditing of predicted impacts were the weakest aspects of EIA in practice. Public participation and consultation on the other hand was acknowledged to be performing fairly well both in theory and practice. One of the constraints identified was on limited capacity of EIA practitioners hindering performance and effectiveness of EIA. Hence, suggestions for improvements were consolidated and recommended in this study.

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