Decent Work in Garment Supply Chains Asia

Effective regulations? Environmental impact assessment in the textile and garment sector in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia and Viet Nam

Environmental regulations provide protection for both environmental assets and the livelihoods of communities that depend on these assets. The analysis evaluates the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) processes for proponents of industrial projects in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia and Viet Nam. The report finds that enhanced environmental outcomes can be achieved by greater awareness among proponents of the links between environmental management (as facilitated by the EIA process) and sustainable development.

Environmental impact assessment (EIA) is one of the central mechanisms for environmental regulation, and a critical tool in planning for and ensuring sustainable development. The purpose of EIA is to ensure the protection and conservation of the environment and natural resources in the process of industrial and infrastructure development.

The effectiveness of EIA systems is dependent on their scope, the capacity of EIA participants, the processes for scrutiny and follow-up monitoring of assessments, and the degree of influence that relevant stakeholders can have in the EIA process and subsequent approval and operations licensing.

In Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia and Viet Nam, the EIA systems are (or in the case of Cambodia, will be) supported by a strong legal framework with clear delineation of EIA processes and delegated decision-making. The analysis of the EIA systems in the four countries shows that EIA is seen as a short-term process to achieve development approval, rather than an ongoing commitment to mitigate the environmental impacts of industrial activities. The presence of legal requirements for EIA systems does not necessarily translate into reduced environmental impacts.

The report highlights opportunities for further skill development of professionals involved in conducting and approving EIAs. There is a gap in knowledge sharing and learning from previous EIAs and a lack of back-casting to compare the actual environmental impacts of industrial projects with the forecasted impacts, and then sharing and using this knowledge to strengthen future EIA activity. Knowledge sharing and learning across the four countries, and indeed across the region, within this group of professionals (that is, knowledge-intensive business service consultants/green consultants) would contribute to improved EIA quality.