U.S.-Asia Partnerships for Environmental Law, Myanmar Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation Partner to Develop EIA Public Participation Guidelines

[UPDATED DEC. 9, 2016]––​ The U.S.-Asia Partnerships for Environmental Law (PEL) at Vermont Law School recently received a Mekong Partnership for the Environment (MPE) grant to work directly with the Environmental Conservation Department (ECD) within the Myanmar Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation (MONREC). The U.S.-Asia PEL will work with the ministry to develop a detailed set of guidelines for the implementation of public participation and information disclosure requirements contained in Myanmar’s recently adopted Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Procedure. ​

The work is made possible by Pact, a nonprofit international development organization that facilitates MPE with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).​

Since it began to open up to the world in 2011 after decades of isolation, Myanmar has been confronted with a rapid influx of foreign capital and development proposals. While these investments bring much-needed economic opportunities to the country, they also are often accompanied by hefty environmental and social risks. It is crucial that Myanmar's rapid development is achieved in a responsible and sustainable manner, and one of the best tools for doing so is ensuring strong public participation in the EIA process.   

"We first began working with Myanmar's ECD in 2013 and we have seen an incredible desire on their part to continue strengthening Myanmar's environmental governance," said Professor Siu Tip Lam, director of the U.S.-Asia PEL. "We are honored to continue working with them. This project will help to develop legal mechanisms to ensure that communities can participate meaningfully in Myanmar's EIA process."

To implement the project, the U.S.-Asia PEL will work with Myanmar's ECD to develop a transparent public consultation process to create "Draft Guidelines on Public Participation and Information Disclosure in Myanmar's EIA System." The process will involve several rounds of drafts of the guidelines, with public consultation at each round in order to gain input from stakeholders who will be affected by the guidelines. The ECD and U.S.-Asia PEL also will identify appropriate current project proposals and willing project proponents to conduct pilot public participation processes in accordance with the new guidelines. This will allow the ECD, as well as the project proponents and the public, to gain experience with the process and identify areas that need to be improved for the future. Finally, the U.S.-Asia PEL and ECD will pursue the formal adoption of the draft guidelines by MONREC. 

The U.S.-Asia Partnerships for Environmental Law, founded in 2006 as the U.S.-China Partnership for Environmental Law, works collaboratively with government institutions, nongovernment organizations (NGOs), lawyers, judges, lawmakers and others to promote environmental governance in Asia. In 2013 the U.S.-Asia PEL initiated a Myanmar Environmental Governance Program. More recently, the partnerships embarked on a project working with government entities, NGOs and environmental lawyers from China and countries in the lower Mekong Sub-region—Myanmar, Lao PDR, Cambodia, and Vietnam—to explore ways to sustainably manage the environmental and social impacts of rapidly increasing Chinese overseas investment in the region.

For more information about the work with Myanmar on EIA public participation guidelines, email nbihun@vermontlaw.edu or call 802-831-1342. For more information about the U.S.-Asia Partnerships for Environmental Law, visit vermontlaw.edu/us-asia.

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Vermont Law School, a private, independent institution, is home to the nation's largest and deepest environmental law program. VLS offers a Juris Doctor curriculum that emphasizes public service; three Master's Degrees—Master of Environmental Law and Policy, Master of Energy Regulation and Law, and Master of Food and Agriculture Law and Policy; and four post-JD degrees —LLM in American Legal Studies (for foreign-trained lawyers), LLM in Energy Law, LLM in Environmental Law, and LLM in Food and Agriculture Law. The school features innovative experiential programs and is home to the Environmental Law Center, South Royalton Legal Clinic, Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic, Energy Clinic, Food and Agriculture Clinic, and Center for Applied Human Rights. For more information, visit vermontlaw.edu, find us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.​