Public participation in EIA: A comparative study of the projects run by government and non-governmental organizations
Assuring public participation in different stages of environmental impact assessment (EIA) is essential since the success of a project largely depends on its type, nature, and process. Before starting a development project in Bangladesh, both government organizations (GOs) and non-government organizations (NGOs) need to conduct an EIA. However, in most of the governmental projects, there is still no significant influence of public participation in EIA. Contrarily, under NGO administered projects, the systematic participation in EIA is quite unknown and often goes without being acknowledged. This paper, thus, studies public participation practice in EIA through an investigation of two NGO governed projects (i.e., BRAC's fisheries and sericulture project and CARE's integrated food for work program) and compares with two projects by GOs (i.e., Rampal coal-based thermal power plant project and Jamuna multipurpose bridge project) to critically understand the prevailing differences. As well, pivotal factors responsible for differentiated nature and type of public participation being practiced within a certain institutional context are examined. The study indicates that NGOs tend to ensure participation of the pertinent stakeholders at different stages of an EIA while harnessing their inputs to successfully complete a project. By contrast, public participation in government's run projects is mostly found to be carried out towards the end of an EIA exercise, which severely limits the stakeholders' ability to contribute and questions the legitimacy of such attempt. This process of neglect systematically overlooks stakeholders' concerns, critics, and suggestions while pre-emptive motive of the project gets glorified and implemented. By tapping these voids, this study attempts to offer an insightful understanding of the gap between conventional ‘practice’ and formal ‘pledge’ when comes to ensuring public participation in various stages of EIA. This study expects to benefit other countries where NGOs are considerably involved in development projects. Keywords: NGOs, GOs, EIA, Public participation.
Environmental Impact Assessment Review