The Chinese government adopted more specific and stringent environmental impact assessment (EIA) guidelines in 2011, soon after the widespread ethnic protests against coal mining in Inner Mongolia. However, our research suggests that the root of the ethnic tension is a sustainability problem, in addition to environmental issues. In particular, the Mongolians do not feel they have benefited from the mining of their resources. Existing environmental assessment tools are inadequate to address sustainability, which is concerned with environmental protection, social justice and economic equity. Thus, it is necessary to develop a sustainability impact assessment (SIA) to fill in the gap. SIA would be in theory and practice a better tool than EIA for assessing sustainability impact. However, China’s political system presents a major challenge to promoting social and economic equity. Another practical challenge for SIA is corruption which has been also responsible for the failing of EIA in assessing environmental impacts of coal mining in Inner Mongolia. Under the current political system, China should adopt the SIA while continuing its fight against corruption.


  • The Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region forms much of China’s strategic northern frontier bordering Mongolia and Russia

  • We explore answers to five related questions: (1) What are the theoretical bases for developing an sustainability impact assessment (SIA) that emphasizes justice? (2) How have assessment approaches been practiced in China? (3) Why has environmental impact assessment (EIA) not worked for Inner

  • We have explored the theoretical basis and possibility of developing SIA with an emphasis on justice and equity to meet an urgent need in subtle ethnic regions such as Inner Mongolia, China

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The Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region forms much of China’s strategic northern frontier bordering Mongolia and Russia. Qian et al find quantitative evidence to support the conclusion that the expansion of coal mining and associated industry and population increase was the major cause of grassland degradation in the Holingol region of Tongliao City, Inner Mongolia [8]. The paper draws from global knowledge of environmental justice and assessment approaches and applies it to Inner Mongolia. It argues for the need of developing a sustainability impact assessment (SIA) and demonstrates that such a need is urgent for subtle ethnic regions such as Inner Mongolia. Environmental justice, sustainability impact assessment and ethnic conflicts in China are topics that are contested and require more systematic research. Following discussions over the use of existing assessment approaches to assess sustainability, the focus is on exploring the possibility of incorporating justice and equity into existing assessments and SIA

Sustainability and Justice
Assessment Practices in China
Why Environmental Impact Assessments Have Failed for Inner Mongolia
Why Did Projects Fail to Conduct Environmental Impact Assessments?
Would Environmental Impact Assessments Have Had an Impact?
The Need to Stress Justice and Equity in Sustainability Impact Assessment

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