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The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) must not be neglected in any projects in the country-OPINION

In the past, there have been numerous instances of project failures in Bhutan, such as the Punatshangchu Hydrology Project and the collapse of the Damchu-Haa Bridge. These incidents have highlighted the lack of due diligence in the review process of large-scale construction projects, leading to substantial financial losses for the government, amounting to billions of dollars.

To avoid such scenarios in the future, it is imperative that Bhutan follows stringent Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) processes, along with close supervision and technical expertise during the planning and execution of any projects. The core responsibility of an EIA is to predict and evaluate environmental impacts early on in the projectโ€™s planning and design phase. By doing so, the aim is to minimize unfavorable effects, identify potential adverse consequences, and implement mitigation measures to address them. It is crucial that these assessments are carried out by the relevant organizations and financiers with utmost care and diligence.

By prioritizing the anticipation and resolution of potential environmental problems, both from a technical and economic perspective, Bhutan can ensure the sustainability of its projects. EIA serves as a preventive tool, allowing for early identification of environmental issues during the planning and design stages of new projects, as well as expansions or modernizations. Consequently, it can help avoid future liabilities or costly alterations in project design.
To achieve this, the EIA cycle and its procedures must be followed in all projects. This includes screening, scoping, consideration of alternatives, baseline data collection, impact prediction, assessment of alternatives, delineation of mitigation measures, preparation of an environmental impact statement, and public hearings. Additionally, an Environmental Management Plan should be developed to guide the decision-making process before project commencement.

While the National Environmental Commission has already initiated such procedures in the country, the failures of certain projects can be attributed to the lack of due diligence on the part of the relevant organizations and influential individuals involved. It is important to recognize that decisions made by a single individual cannot ensure the long-term sustainability of projects in the country. Thus, collective responsibility and thorough evaluation are necessary to mitigate potential risks and ensure successful outcomes.

There are numerous upcoming proposals in Bhutan, particularly in the economically vibrant area of G/phu, initiated by the Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) and relevant organizations. These projects may attract external entrepreneurs from other countries who seek to pursue their own objectives and benefit from the opportunities presented. However, it is essential to approach such collaborations with caution, as the principle of self-interest often guides human behavior. Therefore, it is imperative to strike a balance between the interests of external stakeholders and the long-term sustainable development goals of Bhutan.

In conclusion, to prevent future project failures and financial losses, Bhutan must prioritize stringent EIA processes, close supervision, and technical expertise. By following the EIA cycle and adhering to its procedures, the country can effectively identify and address potential environmental issues. Additionally, collective responsibility and diligent decision-making by all relevant stakeholders are essential to ensure the sustainability of projects. While external collaborations offer opportunities, they must be approached with caution to safeguard Bhutanโ€™s long-term development objectives.

Note: Edited for clarity and space

Tshering, Thimphu

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