Publish environmental impact studies as a matter of course

KWAN JIN YAO Today Online 2 Mar 15;

I refer to the report “Govt agencies may post environmental impact studies online in future” (Feb 27), which reported that after the unprecedented release online of an environmental impact assessment (EIA) report by the Land Transport Authority, government agencies will consider doing the same for future reports. This is especially if there is significant public interest involved.

Publishing such reports online should be the norm, not the exception, especially when the definition of “significant public interest” can be ambiguous. It also allows the Government to better gauge sentiments, enriching discourse in the process.

Arguments that EIA reports could be too technical or too voluminous, or may not be easily understandable or interesting to the layman, are not necessarily valid.

First, if this is an issue, it may point to the need for public agencies to not only make these reports more readily available, but to also improve how the findings from these studies are communicated or presented.

The second point concerns knowledge and knowledge-sharing. The EIA reports provide valuable information, and it is true that not all Singaporeans will be able to grasp the content, especially when it is technical. But if access to these reports is made more convenient, more groups of professionals who have recognised skills and knowledge across different domains can make sense of them, and share valuable feedback.

The third point concerns consultation. In addition to consultation after the publication of these EIA reports, it appears useful to involve more Singaporeans at an earlier stage.

Public participation may be messy, yet considering a wider range of viewpoints can strengthen the eventual justifications made.

Related links
Love our MacRitchie Forest: walks, talks and petition. Also on facebook.

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