The University Support to Environmental Planning And Management in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam (USEPAM –http://www.usepam.org) project is actually the Third Phase of a project effort initiated by the World Resource Institute some 6-7 years ago called the REPSI project – (Resource Policy Support Initiative).
The WRI argued that the Upland areas of South East Asia (from Yunnan province in China to Cambodia) constituted a strategically important environmental asset to be managed with care. With its rich forest cover and biodiversity, potential dangers of deforestation, soil erosion, flooding, loss of biodiversity etc. and its location close to areas of demographic pressure and rapid economic growth, and with the potential conflicts over management of natural resources between the neighboring states, it would be important to act.
The WRI also argued that it was time to focus on supporting the development of capacities to provide policy relevant knowledge production by long-lasting, specialized institutions outside the development system, namely the universities.
A pilot regional program was therefore initiated at NUOL and HUA as core institutions, with funding from DANIDA.
The program was based on the development of a partnership between HUA and IGUC, and between NUOL and RUC respectively, plus the organization of certain regional workshops and seminars.
With the USEPAM project, these partnerships are being consolidated, and a new institution, the Royal University of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, was invited to join the program. Also the Asian Institute of Technology is now involved as a major technical assistance provider.
Briefly stated, the USEPAM project has three major objectives.
Enhanced capacity of the beneficiary universities to provide multidisciplinary education and applied research in support of environmental planning and management
Enhanced capacity of the beneficiary universities to support Government Agencies in development of methods and frameworks for environmental assessment and monitoring
Improved cross-border exchange of knowledge on above issues
Group picture, 15 December 2003, Nghe An province
According to the Project Document, these main objectives are to be achieved through a number of activities leading to expected outputs, such as
Multidisciplinary curricula and courses in environmental planning and management
Methods, data, executive briefs, academic articles from exemplary research projects
Jointly tested systems and methods for EMA
In-services training courses in environmental monitoring andassessment (EMA)
Functional regional network
Cross-border exchanges and review of curriculum, research, methods and models of collaboration
It is important to stress that the USEPAM project concept is based on the philosophy that environmental issues are multi-disciplinarily-issues and that consequently environmental education should be of a multidisciplinary design. It is also based on the idea that the students’ learning should be taking its point of departure in the reality of environmental problems and that a clear link to policy-relevance should always be argued for any curriculum or research activity. Environmental planning and management should not just be seen as a technical fix.
The overall project concept could be visualized in figure (1) and the organizational chart of USEPAM project at HUA in Figure (2) on the next pages.
Achievements during the Inception Phase
The USEPAM project was launched November 15, 2002 and has just successfully completed six-month inception phase. During this first period, contractual arrangements have been established between the parties.
In Lao PDR and Cambodia, labor market analyses of needed qualifications for new environmental science and management students have been undertaken, and strategies and main course structure for BSc’s on environmental planning and management have been elaborated.
In Vietnam, the curriculum for a new BSc level environmental studies program at HUA has been developed. Also, in-house capacity building in the area of EIS/GIS has started in relation to the launching of the development of EIS in the Province of Nghe An.
Regionally, a part from setting up of a list-serve c-mall service at AIT, this regional workshop is the first major achievement.
All teams have contributed effectively to our inception report where only minor adjustments to the project document have been suggested.