By Andrew Rizzardi (Posted: June 10, 2009)
Environmental access rights could be threatened by government stimulus packages intended to counter the effects of the global recession. Several countries worldwide have proposed stimulus legislation that includes rollbacks of environmental impact assessments (EIAs).
The information made available by EIAs is fundamental to informing the public of development issues and promoting participation. A reduction to EIA procedures will inherently result in a decline in transparency and threaten public involvement in development projects.
A few countries such as Canada and Peru have already taken legislative steps weakening EIAs. Preliminary reports from the Access Initiative provide that similar measures are being considered in a number of countries worldwide. To date, only the United States has rebuffed calls to ease environmental regulations by including language that effectively protects the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Environmental impact assessments are an invaluable tool that advances public capacity to participate and impact development decisions. Reducing such standards poses a serious risk of alienating the public and allowing development projects to move forward unchecked by the affected communities. Economic recovery programs and increases in development need not come at the expense of access rights and environmental procedures. Safeguards for access rights should be a component of all stimulus legislation worldwide.
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Canadians Debating to Lower Environmental Safeguards