Extension Knowledge

Posted June 1999

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) training for sustainable agriculture and rural development: lessons and experience from Cambodia, Part 2

by Patrick Duffy
FAO Consultant and Project Coordinator
email: pjbduffy@compuserve.com
The author served as a consultant and project coordinator on two missions in Cambodia in 1998 with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of FAO.
< from Part 1

EIA of case studies by participants

A total of 42 environmental problem cases were brought to the two courses by the 50 participants, although there was some duplication on common problems. A cross-section of the topics is as follows:

Cases were solved in working groups of individuals with interests in the same problems. The output was a completed Environmental Impact Statement in point form, presented in a plenary session with a question period. A total of twenty case solutions were presented, thus giving considerable reinforcement to the EIS model as a problem-solving tool. The working group activity turned out to be popular and it was productive partly because it relieved the pressure from individuals having to seek solutions independently. Coupled with this learning outcome, working group members had the benefit of solving several cases together. They took turns in presenting results and recommendations to the class, thus obtaining experience in making a formal oral report to decision-makers in a role-play setting.

Examples of proposed activities and projects

EIA was designed as an activity to predict impacts of proposed projects. A case which suits this objective is that of a planned bridge and dam to raise the water level in the Pursat Canal and to reduce flooding in Pursat town in Pursat Province. The physical project will require the design and construction of access roads and the bridge, draining the canal during construction of the dam, and the installation of water control structures. An examination of the EIS for the proposal showed several impacts such as arrested fish movements and siltation problems. Alternatives to the proposed sequencing and timing of construction activities were reviewed and several mitigation measures were outlined to reduce impacts on the aquatic environment and the local residents.

Rural development projects with negative environmental effects

Several participants described problem projects which had been recently undertaken with observed negative impacts. By applying the EIA approach to problem analysis for recent projects, a hindsight view showed what was done and why, what the effects were and what can be done to rectify the damage done and to avoid such problems on similar projects in the future. Here are some examples:

Figure 5. Rural road built without regard for preserving fish stocks in a large lagoon

Agricultural practices with chronic negative environmental effects

Even though EIA was not designed to identify and analyze problems in ongoing agricultural and rural development activities with detrimental environmental impacts, the model has been shown to be a practical way of analyzing such practices in Kenya (Duffy, 1998). Since most of the problem cases which the Cambodian trainees brought from the work place were in this category, it was decided to see if the model was useful to sort out the cause and effect of impacts in a number of Cambodia cases, and to look for options to mitigate. Several cases were described in this category, including the following:
  1. Overuse of chemical fertilizer in rice paddies, without technical advice, causing reduced soil fertility and water quality and reduced production.

  2. Overcutting of flooded forest resulting in damaged fish habitat, loss of wildlife habitat, soil erosion, and oil pollution from increased boat traffic.

  3. Massive use of insecticides and herbicides in market gardens, including packaging in the Vietnamese language, and free import of banned chemical products.

  4. Massive forest cutting with attendant watershed problems.
In each case, an EIS was completed using the available information and the conventional analytical methods, namely the interactive matrix, overlays, networks, and the ad-hoc committee approach. These methods were taught during the course and then applied to the case solutions in the working groups.

Results from selected case solutions

Rural development projects and activities with negative effects

Abattoir locations and operations need to be reviewed against existing zoning and permit regulations for legal operations and against existing laws for illegal ones. Recommended pollution control measures are to be phased in by the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Health and seriously polluting and hazardous operations need to be replanned and relocated.

Uncontrolled development of water wells require the collaborative attention of community leaders, MOE and MAFF to establish sustainable water supply systems by adding new wells and piping in sustainable locations, and subsequently closing down the problem facilities. A public awareness program must be maintained before, during and after this shift in supply sources.

Agricultural activities with chronic negative environmental effects

The improper use of chemical insecticides is very prevalent and some of the effects on soil, insects, birds, fish, and humans are well known. The working group on this problem described the illegal importation of these chemicals from Viet Nam with labeling and instructions in the Vietnamese language, which is unintelligible to most Cambodians. Also, the traders in insecticides are generally not informed on rates of application, recommended applicators and safety precautions to avoid contact with farm workers. A number of mitigation measures were detailed including the creation of a pesticide control body in government, on-farm field demonstrations of the proper packaging, labeling and use of authorized chemicals, and wider training in Integrated Pest Management.

Overcutting of flooded forests causes a number of undesirable impacts. Mitigation measures were presented that dealt mainly with alternative sources of the wood and tree parts for fuel and other purposes. Fuelwood plantations and curtailed regulated cutting of flooded forests through interventions by local and community government were also detailed.


Why was this EIA training useful?

The training emphasized the importance of the environmental impact assessment to be the responsibility of the developer for private sector projects, and the responsibility of the sponsoring ministry for the public sector. Furthermore, the timing of the courses coincided with the ongoing processing of the government's EIA laws and regulations which have been under development for several months. There is now a cadre of trained staff in the MAFF and the MOE which has the necessary training to work with the new regulations when they are authorized by RGOC. The cadre will help to serve the need for government to have its policies and programmes effectively communicate appropriate agro-ecosystem management to farmers, especially in pesticide use, land preparation, and in the marketing of agricultural chemicals and farm products.

The course participants learned how to prepare a problem statement and then analyze the cause/effect relationships. Working in groups they examined the alternatives to proposals and the on-going activities, as well as the options to solve the problems. The trainees then took the solutions back to their work places.

The trainees now have a powerful tool to predict unwanted negative impacts of project and activities, thereby avoiding heuristic solutions to problems after the fact. It became clear that the EIA principles and techniques are very relevant and applicable even in a poor country such as Cambodia, which lacks institutional and physical infrastructure as well as human capacity. The author has previously made this same finding in separate EIA work in both Mozambique (Duffy, 1992) and Kenya (Duffy, 1998 - EIA training for sustainable agriculture and rural development in Kenya). EIA benefits apply equally as well to correcting ongoing environmentally detrimental agricultural practices as to proposed projects in Cambodia, as has been demonstrated in the above-mentioned Kenya work.

It was concluded that the Cambodian team of 12 resource persons, having given the EIA course twice, was competent to plan and give replications of this introductory training to staff in the provinces and at headquarters locations. It was further observed that this course model may be suitable for inclusion in the proto-type curriculum for Environment /Agro-ecological study at the undergraduate level, as prepared by N. O`Brien and Koy Huot (1997).

What were the drawbacks?

The new EIA legislation and regulations are not yet in effect. During the courses it was a challenge for the participants to imagine how EIA practice would fold into the day-to-day work in their ministries. The situation will improve as the EIA requirement becomes better known in the government and the private sector, and in the planning of projects funded by multi-lateral and regional banks for which the EIA is a mandatory requirement.

Information gaps are common in EIA work and the more serious deficiencies can hold up the delivery of a complete EIS. During the courses, it was important to use strategies in problem solving which give recognition to the gaps.

For staff members that are overworked, the EIA requirement is seen as a demanding task that takes up time and effort. Such a commitment may be seen as a drawback by participants until the results are seen in the EIS and in the subsequent decision making.

Where did the participants achieve the best results?

Working groups managed to solve problems best in ongoing environmentally detrimental agricultural practice where the cause/effect relationships and the options for alternatives and for mitigation measures were at least partially known to one or more of the group members.

Solutions were more complete where the cooperation and coordination of a number of farmers and government agencies could be counted on. The same applies to the presence of the political will in the responsible government agency.

How did these five-day courses differ from or complement the EIA courses previously delivered in Phnom Penh?

The training given by the International Development Research Centre/ Asian Development Bank was delivered in late 1995 and early 1996 to 8 ministries, including MAFF and MOE, Rural Development, Tourism, and Health. English language training was undertaken and the courses were given mainly in English, with some Khmer. The format included lecture, seminar, field trips, case studies, and guest lectures. Conflict resolution and resource management subject matter was included at the request of the MOE. The training in EIA included 18 weeks of classroom instruction combined with 8 weeks working on case study projects. Thus it was much more substantial and diversified than the five-day courses reported in this paper.

The second ADB EIA training courses were delivered during 1998 to a number of ministries. The content and format was generally the same as the IDRC/ADB training, including the English language training and presentation. Training the trainers was a segment of the course offerings as well.

The five-day courses were introductory in nature, covering the basics of EIA and giving emphasis to the two field trips and 24 case study solutions. Only MAFF and MOE staff attended and no English language was necessary, nor was it offered. The resource people were mainly Cambodian professionals and farmers. The course material was entered into a retrievable computer database for future course use.

Conclusions and recommendations

The non-formal approach of EIA training was shown to be very effective as it featured two field trips with provincial agriculture extension officers and Integrated Pest Management specialists, as well as agronomy and plant protection workers from the MAFF. Other features were the emphasis on solving the problem cases brought to the courses by each of the 50 participants. The solutions were presented in simulated technical hearings, giving strong reinforcement in the use of the EIS model as a problem-solving tool.

The course approach can and should now be used in offerings in the provinces and at headquarters, using the experience of the 12 resource persons and available course materials in the Khmer language. The model may also have application in the proto-type curriculum for environment/agro-ecological study at the university level.

The same schedule can be employed as it was found that the five-day format with seminar, field trips, case studies and working group assignments and presentations is an effective way to deliver introductory EIA training in Cambodia at present. This format suits the technical nature of the subject, the learning preferences of young professionals, and the practical and logistical realities of bringing trainees away from their workplace for the purposes of training. Future training should emphasize visual and oral training in Khmer in the classroom and on field trips. The Khmer language should be featured with translation to English as required.


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