Cabinet approves environmental impact bill

The government of Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto approved at a Cabinet meeting Mar. 28 a bill proposing the creation of Japan’s first law for assessing the impact of construction projects on the environment.

The bill, based on a draft recommendation submitted Feb. 10 to Hashimoto by the Central Environment Council, an advisory panel to the prime minister, is likely to be proposed to the Diet for deliberation during the current session. The government drew up an assessment bill in 1981, but it was scrapped when the Lower House was dissolved in 1983.

If the proposed new bill is enacted, current environmental assessment rules, which were adopted in 1984 as informal administrative rules, will be made more strict and legally binding as a national law. If it passes the Diet, construction projects likely to have a significant impact on the environment will have to follow assessment procedures specified by the law.

The bill requires mandatory environmental assessment for works falling under a first category of 13 types of large-scale projects, including construction of dams, railways and airports, while smaller projects in a second category will be individually examined to see whether they need environmental assessment.