Outlines the basic contents of an EIA report, which should include ( a ) an analysis of the environmental im-
pacts that may occur if a given development project is implemented; ( b ) measures for mitigating the negative
environmental impacts; and ( c ) a summary of the environmental impact of the project.
Article 13 Describes the formation of expert panels to review and approve the EIA report. Experts are selected from a
list approved by the State Council or its administrative departments.
Article 15 After a given project with “significant environmental impacts” has been carried out, an appraisal of those
impacts should be conducted and mitigation measures proposed.
Only institutions approved by the State Council may conduct EIAs. This approval process requires certific-
ation through an examination. There should be no relationship (conflict of interest) between the institution
conducting the EIA and the government entity responsible for approval of the EIA and project.
Article 24 If the nature, scale, or location of an approved project changes, a new EIA report must be submitted.
Article 29 If any government entity neglects its duty in enforcing EIA law, it will be subject to administrative punish-
The EIA Law has the potential to affect how large development projects go forward. In
fact, the thirteen proposed hydropower dam projects on the Nu River provided the first ser-
ious test of the central government's intention to honor the status of the law: when Premi-
er Wen Jiabao halted the projects in 2004, he invoked the EIA Law and criticized China
Huadian Group and its subsidiaries for failing to conduct comprehensive reviews. To my
knowledge, however, there has not yet been a systematic evaluation of how well or even to
what extent the law is being implemented nationwide. Nor is there a good understanding
among scholars and policy makers of the extent to which the EIA Law has actually influ-
enced the regulatory approval of large-scale development projects.
The law's weakness stems from several shortcomings. It lacks specificity about who
should conduct EIAs and exactly which government agencies should exercise which over-
sight capacities. This makes the EIA review process subject to influence from a range of
parties, including local-government agencies that may be dependent upon revenue gener-
ated from a given project, or the hydropower companies themselves, which possess the fin-
ancial means to sway the outcome of the review process in their favor. Lack of specificity
also makes proper public participation difficult because it is often unclear which agency
should take charge of outreach activities, including public hearings (Tang 2007).
At a more fundamental level, any legal statute is only as solid as the judiciary system
that enforces and arbitrates it. In the United States, the birthplace of EIA, the statute is
essentially a procedural stipulation: it requires agencies to show compliance with myriad
steps—from the scoping of possible impacts to data collection to mandated public particip-
ation—and provides a legal foothold for dissatisfied parties to slow or stop a project in the