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Assessing the Assessments: Transboundary Impact Assessment in the Mekong River and Other International Watercourses Carl Bruch China Environment Forum.

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Presentation on theme: "Assessing the Assessments: Transboundary Impact Assessment in the Mekong River and Other International Watercourses Carl Bruch China Environment Forum."— Presentation transcript:

1 Assessing the Assessments: Transboundary Impact Assessment in the Mekong River and Other International Watercourses Carl Bruch China Environment Forum 26 February 2007

2 Overview Background Case studies – Review (selected) Lessons learned Next steps

3 Background Transboundary impact assessment (TIA) an important planning tool Problem: Typically only consider TIAs at the planning stage – Do not know how accurate TIAs predict actual impacts or factors contributing to (in)accurate TIAs. Joint research project: Environmental Law Institute (ELI), University of Tokyo, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Methodology of the study – Develop a common template for comparing the impacts predicted in a TIA with the actual impacts – Proof of concept: five initial case studies

4 The Case Studies Navigation Channel Improvement Project of the Lancang- Mekong River from China-Myanmar Boundary Marker 243 to Ban Houei Sai of Laos (China, Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand//Cambodia and Vietnam) Hydropower Development in the Se San River Basin, including Yali Falls Dam (Vietnam//Cambodia) Emergency Action Plan for the Control of Water Hyacinth in Lake Victoria (Uganda//Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda) Lesotho Water Highlands Project, Phase 1B: Mohale Dam, Matsoku Weir, Delivery tunnels to the Katse River, and Access Roads and other Infrastructure (Lesotho//South Africa) Epupa Dam (Angola and Namibia) Considerations: regional diversity, diversity of projects, different governing legal regimes, projects in different stages, range of results

5 Navigation Channel Improvement Project of the Lancang-Mekong River Based on report by: Naho Mirumachi et. al. Department of International Studies Graduate School of Frontier Sciences University of Tokyo

6 Navigation Channel Improvement Project The Navigation Channel Improvement Project of the Lancang-Mekong River is designed to upgrade large vessel navigation on the Mekong River. –Additional benefits: improved navigation will also benefit trade and tourism; reduce accidents and consequently the losses of properties and lives; prevent environmental damage caused by oil pollution from such accidents. The Agreement among China, Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand was signed in 2000 for project implementation. The first phase was executed from March 2002 to 2004, with the core construction completed in April The project is to be conducted in three phases. The first phase will remove ten major rapids, one shoal, and ten scattered reefs. The second phase will remove 51 rapids and shoals. The last phase includes canalization.

7 Watershed area concerned with the Navigation Channel Improvement Project.

8 Transboundary environmental impact assessment report on the first phase Report of Environmental Impact Assessment was prepared by the Joint Experts Group on EIA of China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand in September The team was comprised of six representatives from China, three from Laos, one from Myanmar and four from Thailand. It was predicted in the Report that Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand would be affected by the project.

9 Water Quantity Predicted –The Report concludes that water level fluctuation from navigation improvement works will be small and limited. –Water levels will not vary more than 0.3m except for one rapid. Most of the rapids have less than 2.3km reach under fluctuation influence. –Asserted that individual rapids/shoals do not interact with each other and water level changes in the backwater upstream are minimal. Observed –Water fluctuation was observed for the whole of the boundary river area from the northern-most blasting. –Tributaries of the river such as the Songkram River and wetland areas in northeast Thailand are reported to have experienced fluctuation. –While there had only been seasonal fluctuation in the past, river levels changed almost daily without any advance signs. –Some villagers in Thailand observed water rising 12 inches, much higher than predicted.

10 Water Velocity Predicted –Only three rapids are examined for maximum surface velocities for three levels of flow. –From the three test cases, the report determines that "it is very clear that waterway improvement produces very small impact". –The Report also concluded the same for the rest of the rapids/shoals without further investigation. Observed –A story is reported where the current of the river has become faster after the blasting of reefs at Ta Salung, Myanmar in April –It is said that Chinese engineers did not clear the entire reef due to fear of increased velocity.

11 Soil Loss and Erosion Predicted –The Report clearly stated "no soil erosion will happen at the reef blasting places". –Asserted that the improvement of the channel will reduce riverbed erosion (on the basis that bedrock channels do not erode). –Dumping excavated material was contended to mitigate collapsed riverbanks from erosion. Observed –Contrary to the Report, erosion has occurred. –Riverbanks, sandbars, and islets that appeared during the dry season are currently nonexistent. –Local people have reported losing their “riverbank gardens” where they would cultivate vegetables. –Several villages in Laos and Thailand have experienced loss of housing from erosion during the flood season.

12 Socio-Economic Impacts Predicted –No mention is made about specific social impacts on the communities. –Broad predictions regarding impacts on the quality of life are made with advantages being increased opportunities to improve living conditions –The only adverse effect is “some local epidemic diseases may be distributed to other area through the transportation” Actual –Large vessels in the Chiang Saen port, Thailand, have swamped anglers, hindering their fishing activities. –Illegal trade of wildlife, timber, and drugs has been taking place on the Lancang-Mekong across boundaries. –Loss of arable riverbed –The number of fishermen has decreased in Thailand.

13 Hydropower Development in Se San River Basin, including Yali Falls Dam Based on report by: Andrew B. Wyatt Australian Mekong Resource Centre School of Geosciences University of Sydney

14 Se San River Basin The Se San River is among the largest tributaries of the Mekong River. It has been recognized as "one of the top 3 rivers in Vietnam in terms of hydropower potential." It forms one of two remote international sub-catchments of the Mekong River Basin. About 90,000 people live in the Se San River Basin. They rely on a diverse range of activities for their livelihoods, from small-scale subsistence farming to plantation and cash cropping.

15 Impacts on Ratanakiri Province (Cambodia) Downstream villages along the Se San River in Vietnam were adversely affected. The greatest impacts have been experienced in the two downstream Cambodian provinces of Ratanakiri Province (approximately 70 km downstream), and Stung Treng Province ( km downstream). The river banks and edges of forest flood and recede unnaturally on a daily basis as a result of daily fluctuations in river level due to the operation of the Yali Falls Dam. Viet Nam has not provided detailed historical information to Cambodia regarding water releases. Rainy season flooding has intensified. Some villages reported being flooded up to three times a year.

16 Hourly water levels for at Andong Meas (110 kms downstream of the Yali Falls Dam)

17 Impacts (Not Predicted) Two assessments of impacts: covered an area 8 km long and 1 km wide downstream of the dam (failed to address the impacts in Cambodia) 8 km below dam only Material Losses –From 1996 to 1999, sudden floods from Yali Falls Dam's water releases resulted in tangible losses, such as lost livestock and fishing gears, approximating US$800,000, or about US$237 for each household. –More than 40,000 chickens, thousands of pigs and ducks, and hundreds of buffaloes and cows since Damage to aquatic ecology –At least 14 varieties of riverine plants have diminished in numbers due to the unnatural flooding. –Nests of turtles and birds such as the endangered Black-bellied Tern have been flooded or swept away. Water quality –Ratanakiri Fisheries Office cited the Yali reservoir as a likely source of contamination “with toxic blue green algae, or possibly other toxic elements.” –An unusual frothy foam often appears on the surface of the Se San River since the construction of the Yali Falls Dam.

18 Increasing incidences of ailments Local people reported that serious human health problems have resulted from changes in water quality. River-associated ailments have also been reported. Stomach and respiratory problems, throat and nasal irritation, dizziness, and vomiting were among ailments experienced after ingesting the water.

19 Lessons Learned

20 Lessons Learned about Assessing TIAs Lack of data is a significant challenge –Lack of baseline data (also a problem for the TIA) –Lack of data on the current status –End up relying on anecdotal evidence, site visits, interviews, and professional opinions (i.e., educated guesses) Yali Falls: dismissing concerns based on “anecdotal evidence”, although this evidence is at least as rigorous as that in the initial impact assessment Issue: limited evidence v. no evidence –Need for long-term monitoring (provide baseline data for next project)

21 Lessons Learned about Conducting Effective TIAs Need to have a clear set of legal, procedural, and institutional requirements and standards regarding how TIAs are conducted, reviewed, and finalized –Agree prior to conducting TIA –Lack of standard requirements, let alone methodology for conducting TIA –In some cases, no requirement to consider transboundary impacts E.g., Lake Victoria/Water Hyacinth: Uganda’s national legislation; but public insisted on consultation with other countries, and NEMA agreed; spurred the development of regional TIA guidelines and influenced development of national EIA regulations

22 Lessons Learned about Conducting Effective TIAs (cont.) Composition of the TIA team can affect objectivity (real and perceived) –E.g., Navigation Channel Improvement (team dominated and led by Chinese) The process of conducting a TIA can improve institutional coordination and collaboration –among government institutions, and –between governmental and non-governmental actors Political support for the TIA process is important (e.g., Lake Victoria) … but political pronouncements about the outcome of the process (i.e., that pre-judge the outcome) can be polarizing and counter-productive (e.g., Epupa Dam)

23 Lessons Learned about Conducting Effective TIAs (cont.) Range of public involvement –Where public actively involved and government(s) willing to listen, TIA more accurate Lake Victoria –Where public not involved, TIA problematic Navigation Channel: very little time for public participation; a small portion of the public actually involved  environmental impacts under-predicted; social impacts not considered seriously –Where public involved, but outcome appears to be pre-judged, TIA process can be stalled by controversy Epupa Dam

24 Lessons Learned about Conducting Effective TIAs (cont.) An external, independent reviewer can be important, especially in controversial projects –Add objectivity and rigor –Comforted most of the stakeholders (including the governments), who realized that the reviewer could help to reduce the chances that the project would be derailed or high-jacked by special interests –E.g., Epupa Dam

25 Lessons Learned about Conducting Effective TIAs (cont.) The accuracy of the TIA depends in part on how the project is designed and undertaken –E.g., Lake Victoria: Water hyacinth was a priority affecting many people, so broad (and immediate) interest in removing it Public and commercial enterprises actively involved in the TIA process –Generally fine with the mechanical and biological approaches, but objected to chemical/herbicide approach –NEMA approved mechanical and biological approaches –Enhanced buy-in Commercial enterprises donated equipment and funds Public actively involved in control measures on a voluntary basis –Awareness raising; provided with equipment –Their contributions were essential to the project and TIA proceeding as expected.

26 Lessons Learned about Conducting Effective TIAs (cont.) Methodologies generally under-predict severity and extent of impacts –Rarely (if ever) over-predict –The only case where the impacts were as predicted was for Lake Victoria Water Hyacinth Public and private sector broadly involved Chemical/herbicide approaches rejected by public and government (although EIA indicated no significant impacts) Exception: Resurgence of hyacinth happened more quickly than expected (due to actions in other countries)

27 Lessons Learned about Conducting Effective TIAs (cont.) A single mistake in the TIA analysis can lead to many mistakes in the predicted impacts –E.g., Navigation Channel Improvement: Predicted no change to water velocity, but channelization actually caused the water velocity to speed up, so … Significant fluctuations in water levels (unpredicted) Erosion, leading to loss of habitat for birds and fish and livelihoods (riverside gardens and fisheries) (unpredicted)

28 Lessons Learned about Conducting Effective TIAs (cont.) TIA problems are often associated with insufficient time to collect the data, do the analysis, or consult the public Timing often an issue: TIA is often rushed; even if they knew the procedural requirements, they did not do it that well, because they were pushing it through (and public participation was limited) E.g., Navigation Channel Improvement; Yali Falls Dam

29 Lessons Learned about Conducting Effective TIAs (cont.) Silver Linings –Even problematic TIAs can yield significant benefits –Lake Victoria: Initially, Uganda did not consult Kenya or Tanzania or consider effects in those countries But the process ultimately did consult them At the request of Kenya and Tanzania, Uganda tested the biological methods for specificity before applying to Lake Victoria Exchange of experiences facilitated rapid action in Kenya and Tanzania Process also spurred the development of regional (T)EIA guidelines governing shared ecosystems Also a factor in the elaboration of an MOU and Protocol on Environment Management Informed the development of national EIA procedures in Kenya and Tanzania –Epupa Dam: new approach to providing information to the public (meetings, access to full feasibility report, filming); improved governance

30 Lessons Learned about Conducting Effective TIAs (cont.) Need for more consideration of effectiveness, cost, and actual implementation of mitigation measures Not all mitigation measures are equal –Environmental (scientific) mitigation measures are often given more thought, are better modeled, and are more effective than social mitigation measures (e.g., resettlement as the “solution”) –Discrepancies between predicted cost of mitigation measures and actual costs (much higher than predicted, therefore the cost- benefit analysis was skewed) –There is a need to ensure that mitigation measures are actually done –Over-reliance on mitigation measures rather than on presenting and analyzing alternatives: assumption was the project was going to go through, and it was only a matter of mitigation

31 Next Steps Technical assistance –Developing and/or improving the regulatory framework governing TIA –Assistance in elaborating or improving technical guidelines on TIA Capacity building –On how to conduct effective TIAs Focused research on additional case studies –On management of other international watercourses –In other sectors (e.g., transportation, energy grid, other infrastructure) –Potential links to context of adaptation to climate change


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