Despite of global economics’ downfall, Cambodia’s economic gained momentum by growing on average 9.4% per annum during 2000 – 2006 according to the Council for the Development of Cambodia.
However, only people living in Phnom Penh enjoyed the benefit of economic growth. The rural people have left behind with difficulties. Cambodia’s government has formulated the National Strategic Development Plan (2006 – 2010) in participation and consultation with all stakeholders including in line ministries and external development partners namely World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The development strategy demands an infrastructure and investment oriented policies to boost economic growth and alleviate the poverty. Hence, many mega projects are planed in comply with NSDP, for instance, industrial estate development in Neang Kok, coal fire power plant in Sihanoukville and Kamchay hydropower dam in Bokor national park. The Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Health expressed their concerns on the impact of economic growth to Thailand National Health Commission Office (NHCO) and the Healthy Public Policy Foundation (HPPF), when we were on a road show to Cambodia for HIA 2008 Conference to be held in Chiang Mai, Thailand, during 8 – 1 0 December 2008. Both ministries concurred that a comprehensive assessment of impact on environment and health need to be conducted from a project level upto a policy level.
Mr. Puth Sorithy, Director of EIA Department, gave a picture of EIA in Cambodia that was introduced as a Government policy in 1999 through the adoption of a Sub-decree on EIA process. The sub-decree stipulates the types of projects and activities owned by a private company and the government to conduct IEIA or EIA namely industrial, leather tanning garment and textile, wood production, paper, plastic, rubber, chemical, mining production other than metal, metal industries, metal processing industries, other industries, i.e., hydropower, power plants, waster water treatment plant, and waste processing, burning, animal’s food processing and cotton manufacturing. In addition, agriculture, tourism and infrastructure are included. Deputy Director, Dr. Doung Samkeat, supplemented that EIA studies the impact on both natural environment and social environment. Health, sanitation, education, economic and welfare are taken into account. This can imply that MOE has expanded the scope of EIA to cover HIA to some extent. However, EIA itself has many obstacles because it requires inter ministerial cooperation to develop and deploy EIA. Awareness raising on environmental cost is considered necessary among the ministries.
On the other side, HIA is relatively new to Cambodia. Director of Planning and Health Information Department, Dr. Lo Veasna Kiry articulated about HIA policy development that it is now in the process of formulating a sub-decree pertinent to environmental health and HIA. The sub-decree will pave a way for development and standardized application of HIA. However, the new government elected in July will prolong the approving process of the sub-decree. At present, many sub-decrees are lined up for endorsement. Cambodia is another country that puts HIA forward to supplement EIA for the well-being of the people. The experience of Cambodia in developing HIA policy will be shared among other cases in HIA 2008 Conference.