What’s Wrong with Environmental Impact Assessments?
The world is expected to invest around $90 trillion in infrastructure in the next 15 years alone, resulting in more new infrastructure than is currently in existence globally. To ensure that these projects do not destroy the planet, environmental impact assessments must be conducted by well-regulated, impartial professionals.
CAMBRIDGE – Walhi, Indonesia’s largest environmental organization, recently took the government to court for issuing construction permits to a Chinese company based on what they allege was a “deeply flawed” environmental impact assessment. In fact, Wahli contends, the $1.5 billion Batang Toru dam project will have severe ecological consequences, including the likely extinction of the world’s rarest great ape, the Tapanuli orangutan.
Batang Toru is just one of many planned infrastructure projects worldwide that are officially deemed environmentally sound, despite posing serious environmental risks. For example, construction is nearly complete on a railway line through Kenya’s famous Nairobi National Park, despite public outrage over an “incomplete and incompetent” environmental impact assessment.
Similarly, in Guinea, the government has approved plans for another Chinese company to build a dam inside the Moyen-Bafing national park, a chimpanzee sanctuary. The environmental impact assessment that was carried out, experts say, significantly underestimates the number of chimpanzees that the project threatens.
We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.
To continue reading, subscribe now.
Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.
Already have an account or want to create one to read two commentaries for free? Log in