By: Gaim James Lunkapis

The SIA Handbook of Malaysia[1] defines social impact assessment (SIA) as ‘a process to identify, predict, evaluate and communicate information about impacts on the community and their activities of a proposed project and to detail mitigating measures prior to project approval and implementation’ (Malaysia SIA Project Team 2002: 1) while the International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA) defines SIA as a process for analysing and managing the intended and unintended consequences of planned interventions on people, so as to bring about a more sustainable biophysical and human environment, and better social outcomes (Vanclay 2006).

Regardless of the definition, SIA is indeed a suitable assessment tool to be carried out before any policy-development-project proposal begins. In Malaysia, SIA was formally discussed as a tool in social and land use planning in the mid 1990’s. Various initiatives were mobilized by the government and non-government bodies towards enhancing and institutionalizing SIA which has consequently encouraged private sector consultancies and institutes of higher learning to participate in improving the practice of SIA.

In this respect, and due to the growing number of SIA practitioners in Malaysia, the Malaysian Association of Social Impact Assessment (MSIA) was officially established in 2005 by a group of like-minded and committed professionals in the field of development planning and social studies (Malaysian Association of Social Impact Assessment 2005).

The need for SIA in Malaysia has been acknowledged in the Dasar Sosial Negara (National Social Policy) in the implementation of projects, programs and policies. In fact, there are several laws that require a mandatory SIA assessment before approval is granted for project development. These are the Town and Country Planning Act 1972, the Environmental Quality Act 1974, the Sarawak Natural Resources and Environment Ordinance 1993 and the Sabah Environment Protection Enactment, 2002.

Several agencies are responsible for the implementation and administration of SIA in Malaysia. They are the Malaysian Department of Environment, the Malaysian Department of Town and Country Planning, the Sarawak Natural Resources and Environmental Board, and the Sabah Department of Environmental Protection. Each of these agencies is responsible for the implementation and approval of SIA requirements.

In Malaysia, there are also some innovative approaches to managing the resettlement of Indigenous communities, including the use of an independent social and environmental audit team to monitor and evaluate the implementation of an agreed resettlement initiative (Baines and Taylor 2002). Further, Pelan Tindakan Sosial (a social action plan) was formulated in 1997.

The plan provides a national framework for integrating various components of social development in the development process. The development plan process is focused on the promotion, prevention, intervention and rehabilitative actions in addressing social issues. In fact, the main ‘backbone’ of the Pelan Tindakan Sosial was to make SIA a compulsory requirement for all proposed development projects (Bernama 2006). In view of the promising future of SIA in Malaysia, this blog proposes the combination of CM, SIA and other social sciences tools to mediate the deliberative process at the LUNaR interface systems of the state LUNaR governance.

[1] Production of the SIA Handbook of Malaysia was funded by the Government of Malaysia and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The first draft was completed in 2002 and remains as is today and has not been officially adopted by the Government of Malaysia. Nonetheless, SIA practitioners in Malaysia have used this book as a guide to undertake SIA works in Malaysian.