THE EFFICACY OF SOUTH AFRICA’S ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT REGIME: A CALL FOR RESPONSES TO GOVERNMENT’S LEGISLATIVE AND POLICY FRAMEWORK TO STRENGTHEN ENVIRONMENTAL GOVERNANCE AND THE SUSTAINABILITY OF OUR DEVELOPMENTAL GROWTH PATH
Have your say in highlighting the strengths and weaknesses in the current EIA system in South Africa. Parliament invites you to be a solution in strengthening the EIA regime
An environmental impact assessment (EIA) is an analytical process that systematically examines the possible environmental consequences of the implementation of projects, programmes and policies, which impacts on the environment. Commitments to the application and institutionalisation of EIA are enshrined in the international sustainable development agenda (including the Rio Principles, Agenda 21, and the Johannesburg Plan of Action), the Environmental Initiative of New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), and in the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness. Whilst the EIA is recognised globally as a key support tool for sustainable development, balancing local socio-economic, political and ecological priorities, especially in developing countries such as Africa, aspects of its implementation remains particularly challenging.
In South Africa, the EIA process has developed into a well-developed legislative and policy framework, which has attempted to strengthen environmental governance and the sustainability of our developmental growth path. This procedure has resulted in the creation of an EIA regime, contained in Chapter 5 of the National Environmental Management Act 107 of 1998 (NEMA), which provides for integrated environmental management. The EIA regulations are one tool, drafted and revised over a period of time, which attempts to regulate developmental activities with an impact on the environment. While NEMA envisaged a number of tools to assess the full range of policies, programmes and activities, the EIA process and its implementation has faced a number of challenges and critiques, which can be broadly categorised as:
- Often, EIAs are applied at project level (biophysical issues). Where environment, social and economic aspects are addressed, they are not always addressed in an integrated way (EIA reports tend to present as separate chapters);
- The EIA has been inappropriately used as a ‘one size fits all’ approach’;
- Adequacy and clarity of EIA regulations;
- Reliability of information/data;
- Adequacy of methods for assessing impacts and placing appropriate weight on negative impacts in relation to developmental factors; and
- Resource capabilities or constraints
The Portfolio Committee on Water and Environmental Affairs (the Portfolio Committee) intends holding public hearings on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) regime, and specifically looking at the difficulties experienced with EIA processes and the manner in which South Africa could achieve a balanced EIA regime.
The Department of Environmental Affairs (the Department), and other relevant government state holders will commence the hearings by explaining the current EIA regime, including the achievements and challenges. Thereafter, public hearings will be held to provide insights.
- The efficacy of EIA requirements as experienced by practitioners, regulators and policy-makers, in policy, law and environmental governance structures
- The effectiveness of EIA as a planning and regulatory tool in relation to EIA review and Environmental Management Plan (EMP) implementation;
- Whether South Africa has the requisite combination of expertise, sufficient and sustained financial capacity, and well-performing institutional and regulatory mechanisms to maintain an effective and balanced EIA regime
- The strengths and weaknesses of the current EIA systems; and
- Recommendations to address specific challenges and responses of the present EIA regime pertinent to the practitioner, regulator and policy-maker
The Portfolio Committee on Water and Environmental Affairs in the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa will be holding public hearings on the Efficacy of South Africa’s EIA Regime. The Portfolio Committee invites all interested stakeholders to submit written comments on the subject matter not later than 12 April 2013. Public hearings are targeted for April/May 2013. Specific dates and times will be provided after the deadline has been met.
Kindly note that the Portfolio Committee Water and Environmental Affairs retains the right to regulate its own proceedings, including the right to decide whether to allow oral representations in respect of any submission, and the format, procedure and duration of any oral representation.
All written comments appropriately referenced as ‘’The Efficacy of South Africa’s EIA Regime’’ should be addressed to Ms Tyhileka Madubela, Committee Section, Parliament of RSA, PO Box 15, Cape Town 8000. Electronic submissions can be made at: tmadubela or hand-delivered at Room 0/88, 3rd Floor, 90 Plein Street, Cape Town. For enquiries, contact Ms Madubela on 021 403 3713 or 083 304 9586.
Issued by Adv. Johnny de Lange, M.P.: Chairperson: Portfolio Committee on Water and Environmental Affairs.