Environmental Permitting in Ethiopia: No Restraint on 'Unstoppable Growth?'
Haramaya Law Review, Vol. 1, Issue 1, 73, 2012
30 Pages Posted: 15 Dec 2015
Date Written: 2012
An environmental permit is a decision measuring an economic project against an explicit set of environmental criteria. This article argues that environmental permitting is one of those very important areas in environmental governance where the process of deciding between environment and development can be made clear. The criteria are set in advance and form a definite lower limit of what is sustainable. If people do not like the decision on the permit, they can contest it at the relevant government agency, or in court, or politically through elections. At minimum, the people know what decision has been made.
The main thesis of this article is that international environmental ideals like “sustainable development” actually take the place of hard decisions and hide the government’s position on the right balance between environment and development. First is the question of whether “sustainable development” is used merely to please the international community. In Ethiopian environmental laws, the Amharic for “sustainable development” is actually “unstoppable growth,” or, in other words, sustained development. Thus, there is one meaning for English readers and another for Amharic readers, and in matters of interpretation it is the Amharic that is binding. The more important question is whether citizens understand and decide upon minimum environmental standards that are more specific than the EPE’s guarantee of sustainable development or the Constitution’s rights to sustainable development and a clean and healthy environment. The paper argues that the government must build on a national conversation about the needs and priorities of Ethiopian citizens. Such conversation could be effective if the choices to be made are clear and if there is a particular agency tasked to undertake such work.
Keywords: Environmental Permitting, Environmental Law, Sustainable Development
JEL Classification: K32, K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation