- ABOUT EOC
- WHAT WE DO
- WHERE WE WORK
- ONLINE LIBRARY
- NEWS & EVENTS
Development along the GMS economic corridors aims to strengthen connectivity and facilitate cross-border trade. Recognizing the pace and scale of this development, it is important that attention be given to the impact on the landscapes these corridors cross.
The effects of roads and other development projects on conservation landscapes and people are of particular concern.
Attention also needs to be given to sector development – such as that of the energy and tourism industries – to ensure that it does not cause degradation of natural ecosystems.
In response, Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA) have been introduced as a decision support tool for development strategies and plans for the GMS economic corridors and sectors. These assessments seek to consider the environmental and social impacts of such plans as they go through various stages of evaluation and revision.
By integrating strategic assessments at an early stage of planning, development can be progressed in a more environmentally sound and socially equitable manner.
Application: Building capacity for SEAs as a decision support tool
During Phase 1 of CEP-BCI, the focus of SEAs conducted in GMS economic corridors was to identify the implications – both national and subregional – of existing and proposed economic developments.
To date, activities have targeted two economic corridors, as well as sector-specific assessments for energy and tourism development.
All assessments aimed to integrate environmental considerations into corridor and sector development strategies while building national understanding and appreciation of SEA as a decision support tool.
The program has closely collaborated with GMS working groups on energy, tourism, and the environment, and technical counterpart agencies in each country. Assessments were undertaken as output-based ‘learning by doing’ capacity building exercises.
The application of SEA currently differs widely across the subregion. PR China and Viet Nam, for example, have been the most advanced in their uptake of SEA, while in Thailand the framework for SEA application has been set out, but is not yet formally adopted or undertaken. Cambodia and Lao PDR are currently piloting SEA to demonstrate its benefit to decision makers and to start building capacity.
Consistent methodologies are used in the application of SEA, however the integration of assessments into planning and policy formulation has required a flexible approach to ensure the best chance of success.
Timing, too, is critical, with the outputs of each stage of the SEA needing to feed into corresponding stages of the progression of a development plan. Ideally, an SEA should be applied at the very start of the decision-making process, and this is beginning to happen in the GMS.
Outcomes: A successful first phase, but challenges remain
As SEA was a new approach in the GMS, Phase I of CEP-BCI focused on building awareness and appreciation of its value as a decision support tool. This has been successfully achieved through a learning-by-doing approach, whereby SEAs have been applied by countries and sectors with technical support from the program.
In all, six SEAs were completed during Phase I and several more are underway during 2012. These have involved sectors including tourism, land-use planning, energy, and transport.
Countries are increasingly adopting SEAs and they are being utilized earlier in planning processes where they contribute most to shaping environmentally friendly development. And, as in-country capacity has strengthened, SEAs are being guided more by national experts and ministry and agency staff rather than international consultants.
At the program level, CEP-BCI has established itself as a SEA leader in the GMS and not only by facilitating SEA application. It is also contributing to innovative SEA approaches, for example by integrating predictive GIS modelling tools to help gain a better understanding of issues such as land demand and pressures on biodiversity.
A number of challenges, however, remain. Institutional arrangements and capacity levels are still inadequate and data gaps are common. These areas will need to be addressed to achieve wider and more systematic application of strategic assessments in the GMS.
Looking forward: building on a strong foundation
Future SEA related activities will build on the strong experience of conducting SEA at regional, national and sub-national levels during Phase 1.
The longer-term aim is to ensure countries have comparative capacity and regulatory frameworks necessary for effective subregional SEAs. To achieve this, CEP-BCI will continue engaging with priority sectors and corridor area planning processes, and will support countries to adopt mandatory and voluntary SEA provisions.
Data gaps will be addressed through the development of an environmental monitoring system, which will help inform SEAs by providing baseline data and trends on key environmental and social indicators.
Click here to learn more about these activities and other CEP-BCI work on SEA.
18 - 20 June 2013
Reducing emissions from Viet Nam’s freight sector (16 May 2013)
Mekong Countries Seek Greater Cooperation on Green Agriculture (02 April 2013)